This post originally appeared at Coast Guard Great Lakes and was written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Laughlin.
On July 21, 2013, a Coast Guard law enforcement team from Station Marblehead, Ohio, boarded a boat with several passengers in Lake Erie. No one was in distress and no emergency had been announced. The only record of the multiple lives saved that night is the federal ticket the Coast Guard boarding officer issued to the operator for boating under the influence.
The operator of the boat had a blood alcohol content of .125 percent, was found guilty in federal court and was fined $2,025 for boating under the influence.
“Boating under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and just as illegal,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Phillip Null, the boarding officer who issued the ticket. “Operating a boat while impaired not only endangers the lives of you and your passengers, but also endangers every other user of the waterway around you, from the child in an inner-tube to the old couple on a sailboat.”
Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates this impairment.
The vast majority of boaters don’t want to endanger the lives of the men, women and children around them. Sometimes, people are just misinformed. With that in mind, we present the following alcohol myths and facts. Share them with your fellow boaters, and if you can think of more, leave us a comment below.
Myth: No one ever dies on the water from drinking alcohol.
Fact: Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Myth: Getting drunk on the water takes longer than on land.
Fact: A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver, drink for drink. This is due to marine environmental factors, such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun and wind.
Myth: Drinking alcohol while driving a boat is less dangerous than when driving a motor vehicle.
Fact: Drinking and driving a boat can be far more dangerous than driving a car while under the influence. Boats don’t have the luxury of seat belts like cars do, so these accidents can be detrimental.
Myth: Since my paddleboat does not have a motor, I can’t get into trouble for drinking and paddling.
Fact: BUIs are given to any vessel operator with a BAC of .08 percent or higher in most states, no matter how the vessel is propelled.
Myth: Most boating accidents that are fatal happen in the warmest summer months.
Fact: April, the start of the boating season is the month with the highest percentage of fatal boating accidents.
Myth: Fatal boating accidents only happen at night.
Fact: Most fatal boating accidents happen between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.
Myth: Most drownings result from swimming.
Fact: More than 60 percent of drownings occur after the victim accidentally falls off a dock or vessel into the water. More than one-third of the victims were impaired by alcohol at the time of the accident.
Myth: You are the best person to judge whether you are fit to drive or boat.
Fact: Your judgment is one of the first victims of alcohol consumption. Make sure you don’t become the last victim.