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Why Alcohol is Especially Dangerous for Boaters

May 31, 2012
Colson Hicks Eidson

Drinking alcohol and then attempting to drive a car while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a proven lethal combination. However, did you know that operating a boat while under the influence (BUI) is just as deadly? The risk of drinking and boating is so prevalent that approximately one-third of all recreational boating fatalities involve BUI, according to the Boating Safety Resource Center. Additional data from the U.S. Coast Guard shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.

Alcohol can have a greater effect on a boater than on a driver. When you drink alcohol and board a boat or personal watercraft, the following can happen:

  • Inner ear disturbances can make it impossible for you to distinguish up from down if you fall in the water.
  • Alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth, which may prevent you, in cold water, from getting out before hypothermia occurs.
  • Physical performance is impaired, evidenced by balance problems, lack of coordination, and increased reaction time.
  • Cognitive abilities and judgment deteriorate, making it harder to process information, assess situations, and make good choices.

Moreover, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident as a motor vehicle operator with zero blood alcohol concentration. Passengers are also at greatly increased risk for injury and death – especially if they are also using alcohol.

Is an impaired boater responsible for your injuries?