Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol and drugs is not only unsafe—it’s illegal. Washington state’s boating-under-the-influence (BUI) law applies to all boats include kayaks, canoes, row boats and inflatable fishing rafts.
If you own, rent or operate a borrowed boat, you are responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone on board. Never operate a boat under the influence or allow an intoxicated person to operate the boat. Be sure to check any prescription and non-prescription drugs for side effects that could impede your ability to be alert!
Do everyone a favor, always designate a sober skipper. Take the pledge today!
Keep everyone safe
Boating under the influence is dangerous to everyone on the water. Wind, sun, noise, motion and vibration can amplify the effects of alcohol and marijuana. Boats don’t have the same safety features as cars, such as airbags and seat belts. When someone is involved in a car accident, they are not normally faced with the threat of drowning. Emergency response may not be nearly as quick on the water as on land. To be as safe as possible, passengers are encouraged to stay sober, too.
Operating a boat under the influence is not safe for you, passengers and other people on the water. You put everyone at risk if you choose to go boating while impaired. Operating a boat under the influence increases the likelihood of an accident and lowers the chance of survival after an accident.
Boating under the influence affects:
- Impairs the ability to see clearly and affects peripheral view and depth perception, increasing the chance of a tragic accident.
- Balance & coordination
- Decreases balance and coordination, increasing the odds of falling overboard.
- Arm and leg coordination decreases, making it difficult to put on a life jacket and/or swim.
- Lowers the concentration of blood going to the brain and muscles, contributing to muscle, heat and fluid loss, as well as reduced ability to hold breath.
- Impairs decision-making and gives a false sense of the situation.
- Increases the likelihood of attempting tasks beyond a person's ability and engaging in risky behaviors.
- Affects the ability to take actions that prevent tragic accidents.
- Reaction time
- Slows down reaction time, increasing the risk of collision or other types of accidents.
- Suppresses airway-protection reflexes, making it more likely to inhale water when falling in or capsizing.
Under the state BUI law, if a law enforcement officer suspects a boat operator to be intoxicated, that officer can require a breath or blood test.
- The state’s legal alcohol limit is .08 and for marijuana it’s 5.00 nanograms.
- Refusing to take a breath test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050.
- If found guilty of operating a boat under the influence, the penalty is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 or 364 days in jail.
- A BUI is considered a prior offense for later DUI (driving under the influence) convictions.
What the data show
- Alcohol use is the primary contributing factor in fatal boating accidents where the primary cause was known.
- In 2017, 15 percent of all fatal boating accidents are the result of boat operators using alcohol and/or drugs.
- From 2006 to 2016, 1,241 deaths were attributed to BUI, an average of 124 deaths per year.
Source: 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics, published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard and Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety.
Alcohol and drugs are one of the top contributing factors in fatal boating accidents.
- In 2017, alcohol and drugs were a primary factor in 44 percent of fatal boating accidents.
- From 2006 to 2016 years, there have been 57 deaths attributed to BUI.
Source: Washington State Parks Boating Program Recreational Boating Accident Report data.
Need more information?
- RCW.79A.60.040. Law regarding operating a vessel in a reckless manner: http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=79A.60.040
- 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics: http://uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2016.pdf
Operation Dry Water is a year-long national awareness and enforcement campaign focused on reducing the number of alcohol and drug related boating accidents and fatalities. As part of the campaign, emphasis patrols are conducted annually near the Fourth of July holiday. A holiday known for increased recreational boating, prevalent alcohol use and subsequent boating accidents and fatalities. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and safety advocates, coordinates Operation Dry Water.
Follow social media
#NeverBUI, #opdrywater, #operationdrywater, #BoatSafeBoatSober, #BoatSober