Going For A Dip? Drinking And Swimming Can Be Lethal Too

drinking and swimmingWho doesn’t love to go for a dip on a hot summer day? It’s why thousands of people flock to their boats, cabins, and beach chairs every weekend during the hot months. Because you probably bring along an icy beverage too, it’s all too easy to combine drinking and swimming.

We all know that drinking and driving don’t mix, but you might not have known that drinking and swimming can be lethal too. Just like alcohol has the power to make you feel falsely confident behind the wheel of a car, it can also make you take risks while in the water.

That may have been what happened when a 65-year-old woman fell into the water of Dana Point Harbor in California. Her husband said that they had some drinks and she fell in around 12:30 am. The dock was dark when she fell in, and although her husband jumped in after her and managed to pull her head above the water, she died shortly after when CPR attempts failed.

It hasn’t been 100% determined that alcohol was the cause of her death, but according to a study in the journal Injury Prevention, it’s becoming common for alcohol to be a significant factor in drowning deaths. After compiling data from a host of studies, researchers found alcohol contributes to an estimated 10 to 30% of all recreational drowning deaths.

Why is drinking alcohol so dangerous before you swim? Alcohol can impair your senses, alter your sense of distance, and make you feel disoriented and confused while in the water. Alcohol can also cause your body temperature to become lower than normal, so if the water is cold you’re much more likely to suffer from hypothermia.

It sounds scary, but it’s easy to stay safe when playing in the water this summer. If you plan on swimming, don’t drink before you go in. If you do drink, stay out of the water for at least an hour per drink you consume. That way you have more than enough time to sober up before you take a dip.

Your Seasonal Reminder About Boating Under The Influence

boating under the influence in FloridaThe sun might always be shining in Florida, but just like in every other state, summer is when people in Florida really get out and hit the water. Summer is also when people tend to be arrested for boating under the influence (BUI), and in Florida, a state with over 870,000 registered vessels on the water, it’s a huge problem.

Most people know that drunk driving is illegal, but they wouldn’t think twice about having a few drinks out on a boat then getting behind the wheel. After all, there are no roads, no traffic lights, and no police out on the open water, right?

It’s true, there’s no set path to stick to when you’re boating, but there are police that patrol the waters in Florida, and they’re looking for anyone who’s boating under the influence. It’s illegal in Florida to operate a vessel or even operate water skis, sailboards, or other flotation devices on the water while under the influence.

When police pull over a boat on suspicion of BUI, they’ll be looking for open containers of alcohol and whether the person in control of the boat seems impaired. Police may ask the driver to do a sobriety test, and if they have reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired, they’ll ask him or her to provide a breath sample.

If you’re arrested on suspicion of boating under the influence, Florida law requires you to pay up to $1,000 in fines, you may go to jail for up to six months, receive 50 hours of community service, and you may have your vessel seized.

Those penalties are a high price to pay for a few drinks out on the open water, and there’s also the risk of death or the death of someone else if you crash your boat while drunk. If you’re in Florida and you’re getting your boat ready for another season, make sure you leave the alcohol at home or appoint a designated driver while on the water.


Want To Avoid A BUI? Don’t Drink And Boat

dont-drink-boat-buiBoating under the influence (BUI) isn’t a widely used term for most drivers, but it’s a frequently used term in the summer for the Coast Guard. Because every single year thousands of people are stopped for drinking and driving in their boats, it appears that people don’t seem to get that when you drive a watercraft after drinking, you can and will be charged with BUI.

To be charged with BUI, you must be operating a boat and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08. The Coast Guard regularly patrols lakes and ocean front in the United States searching for people who get behind the wheel of their boats after drinking, and it’s estimated that nearly ¼ of all boating deaths in 2014 were due to alcohol consumption.

Some states are really cracking down on people who boat under the influence. Take Nevada for example—they’ve recently kicked off an enforcement campaign called Operation Dry Water, and they’re dedicated to stopping people from boating under the influence. If you’re a first offender in Nevada and you’re stopped for BUI with no injuries involved, you could receive 6 months in jail or $1,000 fine. If there was an injury resulting from a BUI, you could be charged with a felony, may pay up to $5,000 in fines, and you could receive up to 15 years in prison.

You can stay safe during the busy summer season on the water by following a few boating safety tips:

  • Never get behind the wheel of a boat after drinking alcohol
  • Mixed with sunshine and heat, even one drink can have the power to intoxicate you more so than you would be on land, so don’t think one drink is OK
  • Bring along snacks and other beverages to stay hydrated
  • Tell everyone you know about BUI and share the message that water and alcohol don’t mix

It’s great to have some summer fun out on the water, but that summer fun can turn deadly if you drink and boat. All you have to do to avoid a BUI charge this summer is to leave the alcohol at home.

Captain Busted While Boating Under The Influence

boating under the influenceBecause the oceans are so large, we don’t think about what it would be like if someone was boating under the influence (BUI) on them. There are no roads and often no one to run into for long stretches of time, but whether a person drinks and drives behind the wheel their own personal watercraft or at the helm of a massive ship, they’re taking their lives and the lives of others into their own hands.

Boating under the influence isn’t as widely discussed as driving under the influence (DUI), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s own special set of penalties. One ship’s Master in New Zealand found that out the hard way recently – he was the first person to be prosecuted and charged after changes to New Zealand’s Maritime Transport Act.

Parmod Kumar was suspected of helming the Master of the African Harrier, a registered bulk carrier, under the influence of alcohol. The Pilot of the vessel was concerned he was drunk and asked the Maritime NZ staff to test him. His breath test showed he was almost 5 times the legal limit of 250 mg/l, and as such he was charged for attempting to perform his duties with a breath alcohol exceeding 250 micrograms.

For his crime, he was fined approximately $2,300 US. If this incident would have happened in the USA, his penalties may have been more severe. The US Coast Guard has strict BUI laws, and each state can also have additional BUI laws. Penalties can include large fines, jail terms, and driver’s license suspensions for all vehicles the offender drives. You can’t install an ignition interlock device in a boat either, so the suspension would be a full term with no limited driving privileges.

With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that high, it’s a wonder he was able to stand up let alone helm a ship that size. Alcohol can affect your logic, coordination, and motor skills, so he’s also fortunate no one was injured or killed.

He may drive a huge ship and you only pilot a small pleasure cruiser, but the same rules apply – don’t get behind the wheel of a boat after drinking, or you’ll pay the price.


California Laws May Tighten Up For People Who Drink And Boat

Drink And BoatMotor vehicles are dangerous. They are built to get you from point A to point B quickly, and because of their size and potential for speed, a motor vehicle crash can be devastating for the driver and anyone else involved. That’s why there are strict licensing requirements for anyone who drives a motor vehicle, and if you decide to speed, drink and drive, or drive recklessly, you’ll be violating the terms of your license and breaking the law.

Under California law, boats and other watercraft are considered a motor vehicle too, but you don’t need a driver’s license to use one. Because of that, some people feel as though they can drive a boat without the same care and attention they would use with a motor vehicle, and that’s where they get into trouble. Although you’re out on the open water without roads and the potential for checkpoints, reckless boating or boating under the influence (BUI) is just as dangerous as if you were to drink and drive behind the wheel of a car or truck. In California alone there were over 4,000 recreational boating crashes in 2013, and those crashes resulted in 560 deaths and 2,620 injuries.

Because of the danger of drinking and boating, a California Bay Area assemblyman would like to see bill AB 539 passed. It would allow law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to test the blood of anyone who is operating a boat under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The new bill is an expansion of 2013’s SB 717 bill that allowed for search warrants for blood tests of any motorist who refused to submit to blood work after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI).

Alcohol is considered a leading cause of crashes on the water in California, and although you can’t install an ignition interlock device in a boat, holding people accountable for boating under the influence and subjecting them to the same penalties as DUI is a positive step forward in keeping people safe when out on the water.

Oklahoma Drinking And Boating Laws Are Ripe For Change

ignition interlock You might not be able to install an interlock device in a watercraft, but a family of an Oklahoma woman killed by a drunken boater is looking for other ways to strike back against people who choose to drink and drive on the water.

A former Miss Teen Oklahoma, Rachel Swetnam, was killed along with her friend after the driver of the boat she was in crashed at high speed into an unoccupied houseboat. The driver of the boat registered a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .18 at the time of the crash, over double the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. But according to Oklahoma law, if you operate a water vessel while under the influence and it’s your first offense, you’ll only receive a fine of $1,000. If you receive a second conviction, you’ll pay up to $2,500. Those are fairly light penalties when you consider others states require the driver to lose their boating privileges, pay fines, and possibly end up in prison.

In this instance, the driver of the boat was sentenced to one year in prison and 14 years of probation for the deaths of Swetnam and her friend, but the family would also like people who drink and boat to be subject to the same penalties as if they were drinking and driving a vehicle. That’s why they are supporting Oklahoma House Bill 1714.

Oklahoma driving under the influence (DUI) law requires all first time offenders who are convicted of driving over .08 to lose their driver’s license for 180 days, spend up to one year in prison, and pay fines up to $1,000, but for boating under the influence you don’t even lose your driver’s license. If House Bill 1714 passes, anyone convicted of operating a vessel under the influence will lose their license for 30 days on a first conviction, 60 days for a second, and 90 days for a third.

A winter chill might still be in the air but spring and summer are right around the corner, and that means boating season is almost here again. Hopefully with the passing of House Bill 1714, Oklahoma lakes and rivers will be safer for everyone who boats on them.

Don’t Get A Boating Under The Influence Charge This Summer

bui-spot-checkWater skiing, tubing, and lying in the sunshine out on the waves – boating is one of those things you look forward to every summer. But if you’re hitting the water this weekend you should avoid hitting the bottle, because you can easily receive a driving under the influence (DUI) or boating under the influence (BUI) charge.

A lot of drivers don’t realize that a driver’s license extends itself to any type of vehicle including scooters, electric bikes, and boats. That means the law of the land as far as drinking and driving also extends to lakes, oceans, and anywhere law enforcement patrol, and these laws are put into place to protect boaters from the possibility of crashes or drowning due to impaired boating.

According to the 2013 Recreational Boating Statistics from the United States Coast Guard, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in 16% of fatal boat crashes in 2013. They warn that drinking alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land, and with the combination of sun, noise, wind, and heat, your ability to safely operate the boat could be impaired after as little as one or two drinks.

Every state has different BUI or boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws, so before you hit the water this summer you should brush up on the dos and don’ts of safe boating. You can also keep in mind the following:

  • Be on the lookout for intoxicated boaters during long weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day. These days are considered the deadliest for boating crashes.
  • Ask everyone on your boat to always wear a life vest.
  • If you’re new to boating, take a boating safety course before hitting the water.

Anywhere you’ll find people enjoying the open water, you’ll also find law enforcement doing spot checks for drinking and boating. Stay safe this summer and leave the alcohol at home before you head out to the water.


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