Boating Under the Influence

boating under influence group

By Alanna Hilbink

Summer can be so much fun. The warmer weather allows for endless outdoor activities and adventures. But what happens when summer turns more dangerous than you expected? Something as relaxing as a day on the lake can quickly become tragic if people are drinking while boating.

Can You Drink While Driving a Boat?

Boating seems like an easy, breezy summer pastime, but it comes with a lot of laws and regulations. Check your state’s specific rules, but in general, you will need a license, some safety training, and a boat full of safety equipment such as life jackets and fire extinguishers. This is because, even under normal circumstances, boating can be dangerous. The American Boating Association (ABA) reports that there are more than 600 deaths, and plenty of accidents and injuries related to boating each year. Even if you are taking precautions and paying attention, accidents can occur. If your judgment is impaired, the likelihood of accidents becomes even greater. So if you’re wondering, Can you drink while driving a boat?, the short answer is no.

If you’re wondering, Can you drink while driving a boat?, the short answer is no.

The Consequences of Boating Under the Influence

Boating under the influence (BUI) is illegal on a federal level with additional state-by-state BUI rules and consequences, according to Boat Ed. Most of these are similar to or exactly the same as driving under the influence. If you choose to drink while driving a boat, you are at risk for hefty fines, jail time, and losing your license. Additionally, BUI laws apply to all forms of boating, from motorboats and pontoons, to canoes and kayaks.

If you think no one will notice or catch you drinking while boating, you should know that regular boat checks and arrests occur on all of our waterways. And because so many either brush off or are unaware of the dangers of boating under the influence, there are groups pushing for and funding intense sweeps to raise awareness and safety. Operation Dry Water’s 2021 Annual Report reveals that in just one weekend, law enforcement agencies across the country came together to check over 300,000 boaters and arrest 638 of them for BUI.

Drinking While Boating Risks

So why do boating laws exist, and why do we want them enforced? Because just like DUIs, BUIs can cause a lot of harm. Legal consequences aside, you put yourself and others at risk when you mix boats and alcohol. Drinking on the water and under the sun is a bad idea because alcohol can hit faster or differently than you expect, impairing your judgment to a greater degree. An amount of alcohol that normally feels fine can have a huge effect on your ability to swim, drive safely, and otherwise enjoy a day out.

Accidents and related deaths are more likely to happen when you combine boats and alcohol. According to the US’s 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics, 130 boating deaths in 2020 were related to alcohol use. There were more than 353 accidents and 315 injuries attributed directly to alcohol. Because alcohol involvement is also often underreported or unidentified in boating accidents, the real numbers may be much higher. Even as is, alcohol is the leading cause of boating-related deaths. And Operation Dry Water reveals that the risk of death is just as high for passengers as it is for operators who are drinking: 10 times that of sober boaters.

Also, the risks involved with drinking and boating don’t have to involve the actual boat: Drowning, dehydration, and alcohol poisoning are serious risks on the water. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vital Signs shares that over 2,200 people die per year because of alcohol poisoning; that’s six people per day. Additionally, the CDC’s “Drowning Facts” shares that nearly a quarter of people in the hospital for drowning got there because alcohol was involved.

Reasons to Avoid Drinking While Boating

You may feel like a relaxing day isn’t the same without a drink. While media and marketing regularly reinforce this false message, a sober day out is much more fun, and much, much safer. Being present with your friends and family will make for better summer memories than putting yourself, your loved ones, and other boaters and swimmers at risk.

Being present with your friends and family will make for better summer memories than putting yourself, your loved ones, and other boaters and swimmers at risk.

If you believe that boating or other social events just aren’t as fun or complete without a drink, it might be time to take a look at your relationship with alcohol. If you’re unsure whether it’s become a problem, we at The Meadows Texas can help by administering a free assessment. If treatment is needed, we offer compassionate and personalized care, and out talented team can assist you in finding the right resources and taking the next steps toward enjoying life sober. Reach out today to talk with one of our caring professionals and learn more.