Alcohol Impairment Out at Sea

In the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2014 recreational boating statistics report, the five types of recreational vessels with the highest number of casualties are open motorboat, personal watercraft, cabin motorboat, canoe/kayak, and pontoon. The top contributing factors to fatal boating accidents, on the other hand, are failure to wear a life jacket (also known as personal flotation device or PDF) and consumption of any type of impairing substance, most commonly alcohol.

Besides failure to wear a life jacket and consumption of an impairing substance, the USCG has also identified the following to be contributing factors of accidents: operator inattention; improper lookout; operator inexperience; excessive speed; machinery failure; navigation rules violation; hazardous waters; weather and force of wave/wake.

Though boating seems to be the least risky type of recreational activity, the fact is, it is as much dangerous as driving a car or, worse, riding a motorcycle. From 2014 to 2015, the number of accidents have been 4,064 and 4,158 respectively. Rate of fatal accidents for the stated years is more than 600, while accidents that resulted to injuries exceeded 2,600 for both years.

According to the USCG, alcohol impairment out at sea is just as dangerous, if not more, as getting drunk on land and then driving a vehicle. Alcohol, when consumed while at sea, even has faster impairing effects than when it is consumed on land. This is due to the overall marine environment, which includes exposure to the sun’s heat, the wind, sea water mist or spray, engine noise, and the vessel’s vibration and motion. Boat operators who will be caught operating a boat while impaired will be charged with BUI. The federal BUI law enforced by the United States Coast Guard applies to all types of boats, including large ships, rowboats and canoes; it also includes foreign vessels sailing through US territories and US ships on the high seas.

As boating season begins in the U.S. it is important that boat owners and those who rent recreational vessels make sure that they are familiar with the “Rules of the Road” and many other things concerning boating activities. Also, to learn more about boating accidents, as well as about your legal rights and options in case of an accident, you can search through the net or visit websites owned by Boating and Watercraft accident lawyers, of Clawson Staubes, LLC: Injury Group, for instance.

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