National Safe Boating Week focuses on a variety of boating safety topics, including life jackets, boat inspection, and, of course, boating under the influence (BUI). Boating under the influence is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. In fact, consuming alcohol while on the water can be even more dangerous, even if you’re not the one operating the boat.
The motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and spray of a marine environment accelerates alcohol’s impairing effects on judgment, vision, balance, and coordination. The result? Boat operators increase their risk of causing an accident while both operators and passengers increase their risk of falling overboard, drowning, or succumbing to hypothermia. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is involved in about one-third of all recreational boating fatalities, and over half of the victims involved capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.
On top of being dangerous, boating under the influence is illegal federally and in every state and can result in fines, suspension or revocation of boat operating privileges, and even jail time. And the type of boat you operate doesn’t matter. You can even be charged with BUI if you’re drinking alcohol while operating a canoe.
Observe National Boating Safety Week and make sure your next boating trip is fun and safe by considering a few boating safety tips:
- Do not drink alcohol before and while operating a boat. Passengers should avoid drinking as well.
- Bring plenty of cold, refreshing drinks, such as water, iced tea, or lemonade, in place of alcohol. You should also bring plenty of food and snacks.
- Wear light layers, as the temperature on a boat can range from hot to cold.
- Make sure all passengers wear a life jacket while out on the water.
- Limit the amount of time you spend on the water, as the combination of sun and water can leave you feeling fatigued sooner than usual.
- Safely make alcohol a part of your day by planning a party at the dock, a picnic area, or even your own backyard after you’re finished boating. However, make sure you limit your alcohol intake, pace yourself, and plan a safe ride home.
- Wait a reasonable amount of time before returning to the boat if you dock for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol with your meal.