Boating under the influence

party-boatOn July 21, 2013, a Coast Guard law enforcement team from Station Marblehead, Ohio, boarded a boat with several passengers in Lake Erie. No one was in distress, and no emergency had been announced. The only record of the multiple lives saved that night is the federal ticket that the Coast Guard boarding officer issued to the operator for boating under the influence.

“The owner/operator of the boat had a blood alcohol content of .125 percent,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Phillip Null, the boarding officer who issued the ticket.

“Boating under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and just as illegal. Operating a boat while impaired not only endangers the lives of you and your passengers, but also endangers every other user of the waterway around you, from the child in an inner-tube to the old couple on a sailboat.”

The operator was found guilty in federal court and was fined $2025 for boating under the influence.

Much like on the road, the legal limit of a boat operator’s blood alcohol content is .08 percent in most states’ waters. Regardless of BAC, if a boater cannot safely operate a vessel, he is considered to be operating under the influence. The Coast Guard can also enforce lower state BAC thresholds that apply to boaters under 21 years of age.

In all Great Lakes states, it is illegal to operate a boat if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. This decreases a boater’s coordination, judgment and reaction time.

The vast majority of boaters don’t want to endanger the lives of the men, women and children around them. Sometimes, people are just misinformed. With that in mind, we present the following alcohol myths and facts. Share them with your fellow boaters, and if you can think of more, leave us a comment below.

Alcohol Facts and Mythsdrinking-and-boating

Myth: No one ever dies on the water from drinking alcohol.
Fact: Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

Myth: Getting drunk on the water takes longer than on land.
Fact: A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver, drink for drink. This is due to marine enviromental factors, such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun and wind.

Myth: Drinking alcohol while driving a boat is less dangerous than when driving a motor vehicle.
Fact: Drinking and driving a boat can be far more dangerous than driving a car while under the influence. Boats don’t have the luxury of seat belts like cars do, so these accidents can be detrimental.

Myth: Since my paddleboat does not have a motor, I can’t get into trouble for drinking and paddling.
Fact: BUIs are given to any vessel operator with a BAC of .08 percent or higher in most states no matter how the vessel is propelled.

Myth: Most boating accidents that are fatal happen in the warmest summer months.
Fact: April, the start of the boating season is the month with the highest percentage of fatal boating accidents.

061006_girls_of_alton_lake_smallMyth: Fatal boating accidents only happen at night.
Fact: Most fatal boating accidents happen between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

Myth: Most drownings result from swimming.
Fact: More than 60 percent of drownings occur after the victim accidentally falls off a dock or vessel into the water. More than one-third of the victims were impaired by alcohol at the time of the accident.

Myth: Fresh air or black coffee will sober you up.
Fact: Once you have consumed alcohol, nothing will sober you up except time. Your body will neutralize about one ounce of alcohol per hour. If you are legally drunk it will take about seven hours to sober up.

Myth: It’s easy to tell if someone is too drunk to drive or boat.
Fact: Many experienced drinkers have learned to compensate for alcohol’s outwardly visible effects and can hide their intoxication.

Myth: You are the best person to judge whether you are fit to drive or boat.

Fact: Your judgment is one of the first victims of alcohol consumption. Make sure you don’t become the last victim.

Did we forget any myths? Did any of the above facts surprise you? Let us know in the comments section.

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