Summer is in full swing, and boating season down here in Alabama will last a couple more months. There’s still plenty of time to hit the lake and drop the boat in the water, and that usually comes with drinking.
Drinking a few beers on the boat is perfectly fine – unless you’re the operator. Then it becomes a dangerous game with lives at stake.
The Danger of Boating Under the Influence
People don’t understand just how dangerous boating can be without the driver being intoxicated.
In 2017, there were 658 fatalities and 2,629 injuries associated with boating. Some of these boating accidents could have been avoided if the driver had been sober. But the temptation to drink while boating was too much to handle, and people’s lives were changed as a result.
Boat operators are just as susceptible to accidents as vehicle drivers. In fact, the Coast Guard says that a boat operator can become impaired faster than a vehicle driver, drink for drink, thanks to the motion of the boat, the weather, the fatigue of handling a boat, spray, engine noise, and wind can all lead to more impairment.
The danger is real, but it’s deceptive. You’re on water, after all – what’s the worst that can happen?
Boating under the influence leads to worse judgment, slower reflexes, worse vision and coordination, and less balance. All of this leads to accidents like collisions – whether you’re hitting another boat, the shore, or an obstacle in the water – or capsizing.
In fact, the Coast Guard says that the majority of fatal boating accidents came when either the boat capsized or someone fell overboard due to the recklessness of the operator.
Another danger: boat operators are less experienced than vehicle drivers. Very few of us spend more time on the water than we do driving on land. The average boater only spends 110 hours on the water each year, compared to many times more hours on land behind the wheel. Drinking only exacerbates this inexperience.
Stay Safe on the Water
Boating under the influence is not only dangerous – it’s also illegal and can lead to fines, revocation of operator privileges and jail time.
Stay safe by obeying the same rules that you are hopefully following behind the wheel of a car: if you’ve been drinking, let someone else operate the boat. Don’t drink while operating a boat, either.
Choose to drink water, fruit juice, sports drinks, carbonated beverages, or anything else other than alcoholic beverages. If you dock and eat lunch and have a drink, wait an hour per drink before you get back on the water behind the wheel.
Above all, believe that any amount of drinking is too much to operate a boat. Don’t assume you’re ever safe to handle a boat if you’ve been drinking “just a little.”
Use common sense and stay safe, and you’ll have a better time on the water this season.
Wettermark Keith is Alabama’s leading personal injury law firm, with injury attorneys who build relationships with their clients. Contact our team if you have been seriously injured in a boating accident.