Safe Boat Operation

Influence of Drugs and Alcohol on Boat Operation

Influence of Drugs and Alcohol on Boat Operation

The consumption of alcohol or drugs while operating a watercraft is a dangerous and risky behavior. Alcohol use has played a major role in the number of boating accidents, especially those resulting in injury or death.

It is illegal to operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to 46 USC 2302 (c)/ 33 CFR 95, if an operator of a recreational boat has a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater (.10 in some states), is considered to be boating under the influence (BUI). Possible penalties for such an offense include a civil penalty of $1000 or less, a criminal fine of up to $5,000 or one year in prison, or both.

Operators who are boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are cited by Coast Guard officials may also be cited by other state or local law enforcement officials. Local criminal penalties vary by state. They oftentimes include loss of motor vehicle operation privileges, fines and imprisonment.

The Effects of Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is a stressor that can significantly increase the effects of other conditions that may arise from a day on the water, including sun, wind and fatigue. Each of these factors can significantly compound the effects of drugs and alcohol, increasing the boater’s impairment and decreasing alertness. Passengers who are drinking alcohol can also be affected by such factors and should be especially encouraged to wear a life jacket at all times.

Boaters must remain alert and should avoid the use of drugs and alcohol while operating a watercraft. Drinking and driving (even in the water) has serious consequences that can last a lifetime.