If you’re planning on taking the boat out onto the lake this weekend, think twice before cracking open a couple of ice-cold beers while on board. Well, at least if you’re operating the boat.
On July 28, the state of Washington’s new boating under the influence (BUI) law will go into effect. While a BUI law isn’t new to the state, the new legislation stiffens the consequences for a BUI offense in order to crack down on drinking and boating, an act that’s far too common in Washington’s favorite water sport. According to the Washington State Parks Boating Program, alcohol is a contributing factor in 30 percent of boating deaths in the state.
Under the new legislation, anyone who operates a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, the same as when driving a vehicle, is guilty of BUI. The offense will be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and 364 days in jail. If the BUI offender refuses to take a breathalzyer test, he or she could face a fine of up to $2,050.
While the law does not prohibit passengers from drinking alcohol while on a boat, riding on a boat while impaired can be just as dangerous as operating a boat while impaired. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol is even more dangerous on water than on land because the conditions in the marine environment, such as motion and sun, accelerate and enhance the impairing effects of alcohol and increase your risk of injury or death.