Consuming any amount of alcohol while occupying a boat can endanger your safety and the safety of those around you. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cautions all boat operators and passengers to avoid alcohol while occupying a boat, regardless of whether the boat is in motion. In addition to increasing the likelihood of accident or injury, drinking and boating also increases your likelihood of receiving a boating under the influence (BUI) charge.

The Truth About Drinking and Boating

According to the USCG, a boat operator is more likely to become impaired faster than a driver on land. Marine environments tend to accelerate the effects of alcohol due to the motion and vibrations of the boat as well as the exposure to the sun and wind. Alcohol use can cause delayed reaction times, loss of coordination, and impaired reasoning, all of which are critical skills to have when operating a boat.

Boat passengers also need to be cautious of becoming intoxicated while occupying a boat. Because passengers need all of their senses to be safe on a boat, drinking increases the risk for stumbling on the boat and falling overboard. In over half of the boating deaths investigated by the USCG, intoxication caused a boater to capsize the vessel or fall overboard.

Alcohol is a factor in approximately one-third of all recreational boating-related fatalities in the United States.

There is No Safe Amount of Alcohol While Boating

Ohio Revised Code §1547.11 states it is illegal to operate any watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While there is a threshold for identifying legal intoxication, 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), that is not to say you cannot be impaired with a lower BAC. No amount of alcohol use is safe.

The USCG approximates a BAC as low as 0.06 can cause significant enough impairment for a boater to be a danger to himself and others. BAC levels over 0.09 BAC are guaranteed to cause impairment.

Even if you are not operating the boat or the boat is stationary, the risks of intoxication still exist. Swimming while intoxicated is dangerous due to loss of coordination and awareness of surroundings. Moving about the boat decks and cabins is more dangerous when intoxicated due to impaired balance.

Boaters who dock for an excursion on land are advised not to return to the water until they have allowed at least one hour to elapse per alcoholic drink consumed. Doing so allows the body to metabolize the alcohol and reduces the risk of impairment when returning to the watercraft.

Drinking and Boating is a Crime

Boating under the influence of alcohol is not only dangerous, it is also illegal. A first offense for BUI can result in six months in jail and fines up to $1,000. The penalties can increase if a person is injured or killed due to a boater’s intoxication.

If you are injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated boater, you can use the operator’s intoxication as proof of their negligence. At Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault we help injured boaters and their families seek compensation for the damaged caused by intoxicated and irresponsible boat operators. Contact our office today to set up a free consultation: 419-843-6663.