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Alcohol Use and Boating: Drinking and boat use are a dangerous combination

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Hundreds of people die worldwide each year in boating related accidents, with many of the deaths related to alcohol use. Eighty percent (80%) of these fatalities are caused by drowning, a major cause of death in the United States. Half of all boating fatalities are alcohol related. Fatality trends are even higher in cold water states like Alaska.

Exposure to the vibration, noise, glare, and motion of boating are factors can that produce fatigue in boaters. These factors are very similar to the impairment of boaters caused by the use of alcohol. Combining the use of alcohol and the normal fatigue caused by boating is synergistic. The sum of the impacts are much greater than the expected sum of the individual stress factors.

Dr. Vik Tarugu of Detox of South Florida, operates his Miami Addiction Treatment Center with the knowledge that there are no income requirements for addiction. Just because you have a big yacht does not make you any less susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Boaters need to “pay special attention on the water, just like they would while driving down a busy freeway. Just because alcohol is not prohibited on boats does not give you free reign to consume foolishly” said Dr. Tarugu.

Alcohol Use Issues to Consider While on the Water

  • Boat motion and use stresses vessel operators. Alcohol use adds further additional stress on the boat operator
  • Eat before drinking and limit use to less than one drink per hour if you must drink
  • Provide for a non-drinker to available to operate the vessel, especially if there is any chance the primary operator has had too much to drink
  • Operating a vessel under the influence is a federal offense and is illegal in many states as well
  • Boat operators need to accept responsibility for their actions and exercise common sense to their use of alcohol

Federal penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) are severe. Operators with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher are subject to a civil penalty up to exceed $1,000, a civil penalty up to $5,000, and up to one year in prison. In most states, BUI is treated the same as driving under the influence and carries the same penalties.

Exercise care while boating. Ensure there is a designated operator available to run your boat. Remember that alcohol use and boating are a dangerous mix.