All washed up: The dangers of BUI

Vessel DocumentationCoast Guard Safety Alerts

Written by Aux. David Glaser

Imagine yourself out on the water one weekend with a group of friends. The sun is shining and everyone is having a great time. Someone opens a cooler full of beers they brought with them and before long, everyone has had a few drinks. After a few hours, you all decide to head back towards shore. Everyone has been drinking, but the operator says he is fine and can make it back safely.

On the water, this situation happens on a regular basis. Would you get into a car with someone who had been consuming large amounts of alcohol? Why is it so different on a boat?

Boat operators with a blood alcohol content of .10 or higher are ten times more likely to die in a boating accident than sober operators. As a passenger, you’re chances of being involved in an accident drastically increase.

Winston Michel, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, fills out a citation for a recreational boater during joint patrols in support of Operation Dry Water. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.

Winston Michel, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, fills out a citation for a recreational boater during joint patrols in support of Operation Dry Water. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.

Why take the chance?

Boating under the influence is not only dangerous – it’s illegal. Just like driving under the influence, there are countless risks associated with the use of alcohol while boating. Fines, jail sentences, serious injury or even death are just some of the sobering realities of what can happen if you mix boating with alcohol use.

Last year alone, there were more than 70 deaths and 180 injuries that were directly attributed to the use of alcohol while boating. These staggering statistics make alcohol use the leading contributing factor to fatalities on the water. In fact, alcohol is involved in about one-third of all recreational boating accidents.

Being on the water requires your full attention – things can happen in the blink of an eye. Alcohol lowers your reaction time and affects your decision making abilities, making it harder to make split-second decisions crucial to the safety of both yourself and your passengers.

Alcohol also affects your balance and coordination, which is amplified on the decks of an unstable boat. The inner ear disturbances that occur when drinking can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.

Boating and participating in other water sports are a fun and enjoyable experience. Mixing alcohol with recreational boating can turn a great day on the water into the tragedy of a lifetime.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Here are some tips to keep you safe and sober on the water:

  • Take along a variety of cool drinks, such as sodas, water, iced tea, lemonade or non-alcoholic beer.
  • Bring plenty of food and snacks.
  • Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool.
  • Plan to limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue. Remember that it’s common to become tired more quickly on the water.
  • If you want to make alcohol part of your day’s entertainment, plan to have a party ashore at the dock, in a picnic area, at a boating club, or in your backyard…. Choose a location where you’ll have time between the fun and getting back into your car or boat.
  • If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol with your meal, wait a reasonable time (estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink) before operating your boat.
  • Having no alcohol while aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water — intoxicated passengers are also at risk of injury and falls overboard.

 

Spread the word on the dangers of boating under the influence. Many recreational boaters forget that a boat is a vehicle – and that safe operation is a legal and personal responsibility.