According to the 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, nationwide boating fatalities reached 658, a decrease of 6.1 percent from 2016. As well, alcohol was the top contributing factor for boating accidents that resulted in loss of life, accounting for 19 percent of boating fatalities.
Regarding boating activities and the simultaneous consumption of alcohol, the National Safe Boating Council warns:
- The effects of alcohol are increased during boating activities. These effects can include poor coordination, diminished balance, and impaired judgment.
- Inebriated passengers are subject to making fatal mistakes, such as leaning over the side of the boat, falling overboard, swimming close to the boat’s propeller, or standing up in a small boat, causing the vessel to overturn.
- Alcohol in the system can significantly enhance the effects of cold water shock.
- The effects of the wind, sun, and waves can exacerbate the effects of alcohol use.
The U.S. Coast Guard cautions that BUI (Boating Under the Influence) may be riskier than DUI:
- A boat operator is at significant risk to become impaired more quickly than the driver of a motor vehicle
- About one-third of all recreational boating deaths involve the use of alcohol
- The penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) can include significant jail time, large fines, and the removal of boating operator privileges
Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in every state, including Maryland. The Coast Guard actively enforces the prohibition against BUI according to federal law. This prohibition pertains to the operation of the smallest to the largest vessels, including rowboats, canoes, and large ships (i.e., foreign vessels in U.S. waters or U.S. vessels out on the high seas).
Numerous dangers of BUI
The impairments associated with alcohol use, such as diminished vision (peripheral, depth perception, and otherwise), judgment, coordination, and balance enhance the chance of boating accidents involving both operators and passengers. A person falling in cold water and under the influence of alcohol may not realize hypothermia is sitting in. As well, alcohol in the system can cause inner ear disturbances that make it difficult for an inebriated individual in the water to distinguish the difference between up and down.
According to data from the U.S. Coast Guard, more than 50 percent of victims who died in boating accidents connected to alcohol use fell overboard and/or capsized their boats.
The level of impairment the consumer of alcohol on the water experiences is greater than on land. This is due to the marine environment that involves engine noise, vibration, motion, wind, sun, and spray. These elements all impose stresses that accelerate fatigue and diminish the judgment, coordination, and reaction time of the boat operator faster.
Another reason why alcohol is often more dangerous to boaters than motor vehicle drivers is because boat operators often have significantly less experience on water than on the roadway. Most do not operate a boat every day – only at certain times throughout the year.
The physical effects of alcohol can directly threaten the safety of the alcohol consumer as well as others on the water. In particular, a boat operator having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than .10 may be 10 times more likely to lose his or her life in a boating accident than an operator having a zero BAC level.
Tragedy can strike quickly when boating and alcohol consumption are combined together. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury on a boat or watercraft of any nature due to the negligence of another party, our Maryland personal injury attorneys at Plaxen & Adler, P.A. are here to help. We will fight vigorously on your behalf to help you recover the compensation you deserve. To set up a free consultation about your case, please call us today at 410.988.4449 or fill out our contact form.