Boat safe, boat sober: Designate a sober skipper

Vessel DocumentationCoast Guard Safety Alerts

May 21-27 may be National Safe Boating Week, but we encourage all boaters to boat safe year-round. Follow along this week as we provide tips to help you stay safe while out on the water.

Written by Joseph Carro, Recreational Boating Safety Specialist

A Coast Guard petty officer and a civilian pose for a staged photo of someone being arrested for boating under the influence. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in boater deaths. Be part of Operation Dry Water by making a pledge to never boat under the influence. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)

Boating under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs continues to be the primary contributing factor in fatal boating accidents where the primary cause was known.

Alcohol was a contributing factor in 91 boating fatalities and 228 boating injuries in 2015.

Many boaters still think that boating and consuming alcoholic beverages go together. The fact is that boating under the influence is dangerous and is against the law in every state – and this applies to all vessels, not just power vessels.

Alcohol was a contributing factor in 91 boating fatalities and 228 boating injuries in 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Colin White.

Alcohol was a contributing factor in 91 boating fatalities and 228 boating injuries in 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Colin White.

Operating a boat while impaired can have unintended and completely avoidable consequences.

Drinking alcohol underway is more dangerous than when consumed on dry land. The effects of alcohol can be intensified by the wind, boat noise and vibration, and the sun.

Increasing your odds of being involved in a boating accident by drinking is just one of the problems. Law enforcement officers are everywhere. Every state has marine patrol officers, sheriffs, game wardens or state police, including U. S. Coast Guard law enforcement personnel.

If a law enforcement official determines you are boating under the influence, your voyage may end with large fines, loss of operating privileges and you could even find yourself under arrest. While this may sound unappealing, the alternative of being involved in a boating accident where you, a loved one, family member or complete stranger could be seriously injured or killed is far worse.

Alcohol use is the lead contributing factor in boater deaths. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer David Marin.

Alcohol use is the lead contributing factor in boater deaths. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer David Marin.

Everyone has heard of a designated driver. On the water while boating consider the same thing. The Coast Guard recommends that if you boat, don’t drink. If you do intend on consuming alcoholic beverages, designate a sober skipper. A sober operator will help ensure your day on the water stays safe and everyone returns home after an enjoyable day boating.

Take the pledge to boat safe and boat sober.