Don’t Drink and Boat

By Patrick Farrell July 26, 2011

Boat Safety

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that drinking and driving don’t mix. The fact of the matter is people still seem to avoid following suit when it comes to operating a vessel. Recent statistics state that 17% of all recreational boating fatalities involve the abuse of alcohol, meaning 428 of 2010’s 6,062 accidents were alcohol related. On the road there are laws and organizations that discourage drinking and driving, but when it comes to the water, we really see very little enforcement: until now.

The weekend of June 25th was the first official national weekend of “boating-under-the-influence education and enforcement.” Cleverly termed Operation Dry Water, it was created by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. With 2,708 law enforcement officers in 50 states, this weekend-long event aimed to, overall, provide a first-hand educational experience for boaters who may not take BUIs seriously.

Checkpoints across the country and beyond, including Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Samoa, and Puerto Rico, were set up to detect any boaters that may be cruising under the influence.  Lake of the Ozarks officers checked nearly 200 boats, and 20 people were arrested. Lake County, California screened 33 boaters and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina gave 23 warnings and made 10 arrests. Boaters who received a warning were forced to terminate their voyage, or face impoundment.

In its early years of creation, Operation Dry Water is gaining significant air time and truly making an impact on the boating community.  Many boaters assume that maritime laws differ greatly from those on the road, and that with less traffic on the water, the risks of drinking and boating are less severe. From an insurance standpoint, however, your boat insurance will increase significantly if you are charged with a DUI or DWI – the two modes of transportation are interrelated. In fact, one of the penalties of receiving a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) is loss of driving privileges.

You can Google a Blood Alcohol Content chart, which estimates your BAC based on your weight and the number of drinks you have consumed, to keep in your boat for reference. Frankly, the conditional factors boaters are faced with while on the water make it difficult to determine just how much alcohol has affected them.  Keep in mind, impairment is accelerated by the Sun, which causes fatigue and further dehydrates the body. Wind also accelerates the affects of alcohol, as does the vibration and movement of your vessel on the water. The only solution here is to drink plenty of water, and if you choose to drink alcohol, make sure it’s in moderation. As authorities are increasing their efforts to enforce boating under the influence laws and penalties, now is a better time than any to take boating and drinking more seriously.

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