Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is, in many ways, even more, dangerous than driving under the influence. Alcohol can negatively impact judgment, balance, coordination, vision, and increase the likelihood of risk-taking behavior. In fact, information from the United States Coast Guard shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.
Boats, by their nature, are inferior to cars in their ability to steer and brake. Moreover, the typical boat operator is not out on the water practicing on a daily basis, making boat operators less skilled on the water than they are on land. When this is coupled with the motion and spray typical of most boating outings, along with fatigue and alcohol consumption, the potential for danger is obvious.
Boating under the influence laws varies from state to state. However, in most states, a conviction for boating under the influence is very similar to driving under the influence charge. Boating under the influence can result in jail time, fines, required attendance at lengthy alcohol education programs, boating safety classes with an additional alcohol education component, community service or hard labor, and much more.
A conviction for boating under the influence may even be “priorable” for purposes of a future driving under the influence case. This means that if a person is convicted of boating under the influence, and, within a specified period of time (usually 5, 7, or 10 years), that person is arrested for DUI on land, the DUI will be considered a second-offense case. This is true even if the DUI arrest is the first time the person has ever been arrested on land.
The United States Coast Guard offers many helpful suggestions to avoid problems related to boating under the influence. As might be expected, the cornerstone of these suggestions is to abstain from consuming excessive alcohol, and recognizing that drinking ANY amount of alcohol can be a threat to the safety of all concerned.