It’s hot, the waves are plentiful, and the beer is cold. Sounds great right? It is! But watch yourself this summer at the beach or on the lake. In all 50 states, it is illegal to drink and operate a boat. Getting a BUI (boating under the influence) can be just as serious as driving – depending on your state’s laws.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, about half of all recreational boating fatalities involve alcohol. In almost all states, the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08% (and yes, “under the influence” means any intoxicant, including legal and illegal drugs). Convicted of a BUI can include the same penalties as a DUI like large fines and/or jail time, loss of operating privileges, possible felony conviction, completion of safe boating course, and more.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re in a canoe or steering a large ship – the laws apply to all watercraft. Keep in mind, if you’re sailing the open seas, a BUI is a crime under federal and state laws.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, operating a boat actually has more variables to consider than driving a car. Boat drivers need to constantly be aware of water depth, rocks, sandbars, branches – and event the direction of the waves. The lake isn’t marked by lanes and signs, so it’s a virtual free-for-all on the water. Add to that, exposure to sun, wind, rain, noise, vibration and motion actually intensify the side effects of alcohol and drugs.
Here’s some boating safety tips to keep you afloat this summer:
- Watch the weekends. Major holidays over the summer tend to bring out the best (and deadliest) of us. Extended weekends, like Labor Day coming up will always cause some people to tip over the edge. To stay safe, use defensive operating skills, staying aware of other boaters and law enforcement.
- Know your laws. If you don’t know your state’s boating laws, we suggest you research them before heading out. And even if you haul your boat on a trailer to another state – you need to know their laws as well. Remember to check open container laws as well as boating operation laws.
- Suit up. Wearing a life vest is always a good idea. Why? Drinking plus sun plus the elements can intensify your high, throwing you or passengers off balance. That’s a dangerous mix. Many states also require children of certain ages to wear life vests, so brush up on those laws too.
There are many resources dedicated to helping you stay safe and recover. If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, locate an AA Group here.