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Boating Under The Influence: High Risk, No Reward

The terms “driving under the influence” (DUI) and “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) are well-known terms associated with driving under the influence of certain substances, such as alcohol. It might surprise you to learn that steering a boat while intoxicated can land you in hot water as well. “Boating under the influence” (BUI) isn’t a term you often hear, but it’s a threat to waterway safety.

Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal – the same as when you’re driving a car. Any substance that hinders your motor skills or clouds your ability to reason is potentially dangerous when steering a boat.

Boating under the influence of sleep-inducing pain pills is just as dangerous as getting high on marijuana or drinking a case of beers before taking the helm.

Deadly Statistics

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show there were 672 boating-related deaths in 2010. Seventy-five percent of the 672 fatalities were the result of drowning, and 19 percent of those deaths were because of alcohol.

The U.S. Coast Guard also reports that alcohol was a leading factor in the 4,604 boating accidents that occurred in 2010.

Boating is a Skill

Boating takes skill and concentration. Steering a boat might look easy; however, in reality it takes just as much skill and concentration as driving any other vehicle. Some states, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, even require you to obtain a boating license before you can legally operate a boat.

It’s clear that operating a boat is a serious activity that’s more difficult than it looks. When you throw drugs and alcohol into the mix, then you’re putting yourself and those around you in danger.

Drugs and alcohol impair your reaction time, balance and judgment – all of which are crucial when operating a boat. Under normal circumstances, conditions such as high winds, sun, noise and vibrations often make boating difficult. The situation is worse when you’re under the influence of substances that dull your senses.

Consequences of Boating Under the Influence

The biggest consequence of boating under the influence is the possibility of death or accident. Not only is your life in danger, but the lives of your passengers and others on the waterway are in danger as well. You could ram another boat, run over a jet skier or bump a swimmer – anything is possible when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If marine law enforcement catches you operating a boat under the influence, you might face arrest and have your boat impounded. You also could possibly pay fines and incur other punishments, such as losing your boating privileges. The following are penalties for BUI in Pennsylvania:

First Pennsylvania BUI Offense

  • 6 months of probation
  • $300 fine

BAC .10 – .159

  • 48 hours mandatory, and up to 6 months in jail
  • minimum fine of $750, with a maximum of $5,000

BAC .16

  • 72 days mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
  • $1,500 fine

Second Pennsylvania BUI Offense

BAC .08 – .099

  • 5 days mandatory, and up to 6 months in jail
  • minimum fine of $300, with a maximum of $2,500

BAC .10 – .159

  • 30 days mandatory, and up to 6 months in jail
  • minimum fine of $750, with a maximum of $5,000

BAC .16

  • 90 days mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
  • $1,500 fine

Third Pennsylvania BUI Offense

BAC .08-.099

  • 10 days mandatory, and up to 2 years in jail
  • minimum fine of $500, with a maximum of $5,000

BAC .10-.159

  • 90 days mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
  • minimum fine of $1,500, with a maximum of $10,000

BAC .16

  • 1 year mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
  • minimum fine of $2,500

Boating with a Clear Head

The possible negative consequences of boating under the influence aren’t worth the risk. Guide your boat with a clear head and keep the waterways safe.

Leckerman