how does alcohol use affect boat operators or passengers?
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Did you know:
A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink?
The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms?
The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities?
Every boater needs to understand the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI). It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to ALL boats (from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships) and includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas.
Dangers of BUI
Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat for both passengers and boat operators. U.S. Coast Guard data shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.
Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray accelerates a drinker's impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator's coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.
Alcohol can also be more dangerous to boaters because boat operators are often less experienced and less confident on the water than on the highway. Recreational boaters don't have the benefit of experiencing daily boat operation. In fact, boaters average only 110 hours on the water per year.
Alcohol has many physical effects that directly threaten safety and well-being on the water.
When a boater or passenger drinks, the following occur:
Cognitive abilities and judgment deteriorate, making it harder to process information, assess situations, and make good choices.
Physical performance is impaired - evidenced by balance problems, lack of coordination, and increased reaction time.
Vision is affected, including decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, decreased night vision, poor focus, and difficulty in distinguishing colors (particularly red and green).
Inner ear disturbances can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.
Alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth - which may prevent a person in cold water from getting out before hypothermia sets in.
As a result of these factors, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration. Passengers are also at greatly increased risk for injury and death - especially if they are also using alcohol.
This table gives a guide to average impacts of alcohol consumption. However, many factors, including prescription medications and fatigue, can affect an individual's response to alcohol, and impairment can occur much more quickly as a result. There is NO safe threshold for drinking and operating a boat, so do not assume you are safe just because you fall into the "rarely" or "possibly" influenced categories.
APPROXIMATE BLOOD ALCOHOL PERCENTAGE
Drinks Body Weight in Pounds Influenced
100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240
1 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.02 RARELY
2 0.09* 0.07* 0.06* 0.06* 0.05* 0.04 0.04 0.04
3 0.13 0.11 0.09* 0.08* 0.07* 0.07* 0.06* 0.06*
4 0.18 0.15 0.13 0.11 0.1 0.09* 0.08* 0.07* POSSIBLY*
5 0.22 0.18 0.16 0.14 0.12 0.11 0.1 0.09*
6 0.26 0.22 0.19 0.17 0.15 0.13 0.12 0.11
7 0.31 0.26 0.22 0.19 0.17 0.15 0.14 0.13 DEFINITELY
8 0.35 0.29 0.25 0.22 0.2 0.18 0.16 0.15
9 0.4 0.33 0.28 0.25 0.22 0.2 0.18 0.17
10 0.44 0.37 0.31 0.28 0.24 0.22 0.2 0.18
The asterisk ( * ) indicates estimated levels of impairment that could mean the individual is possibly influenced.
Enforcement and Penalties
The Coast Guard and every state have stringent penalties for violating BUI laws. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms. The Coast Guard and the states cooperate fully in enforcement in order to remove impaired boat operators from the waters.
In waters that are overseen solely by the states, the states have the authority to enforce their own BUI statutes. In state waters that are also subject to U.S. jurisdiction, there is concurrent jurisdiction. That means if a boater is apprehended under Federal law in these waters, the Coast Guard will (unless precluded by state law) request that state law enforcement officers take the intoxicated boater into custody.
When the Coast Guard determines that an operator is impaired, the voyage may be terminated. The vessel will be brought to mooring by the Coast Guard or a competent and un-intoxicated person on board the recreational vessel. Depending on the circumstances, the Coast Guard may arrest the operator, detain the operator until sober, or turn the operator over to state or local authorities.
Tips for Avoiding BUI
Boating, fishing and other water sports are fun in their own right. Alcohol can turn a great day on the water into the tragedy of a lifetime.
Effects: Alcohol and Boating
Alcohol severely diminishes your ability to react to several different signals at once. It takes longer to receive information from your eyes, ears and other senses, and still more time to react.
The Effects of Alcohol
The Effects of Alcohol Alcohol and BoatingAFFECTS BALANCE:
Balance is critical on a boat. Simply falling overboard and drowning accounts for at least one in four boating fatalities.IMPAIRS JUDGEMENT:
Alcohol reduces inhibitions, causing normally cautious people to try stunts or enter high-risk situations a sober person would avoid.
If you plan to drink, don't go boating, or save your alcohol for when you've arrived safely back at the dock.SLOWS REACTION:
Alcohol severely diminishes your ability to react to several different signals at once. It takes longer to receive information from your eyes, ears and other senses, and still more time to react. Reduced night vision and the inability to distinguish red from green makes the intoxicated night boater an even greater hazard.
Exposure to sun, motion of the waves, and the noise and vibration of your boat's engine causes fatigue. Alcohol impairs your senses further.
Stressors, such as exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare, wind and the motion of the water, affects boat operators and passengers, thus making drinking while boating even more dangerous than drinking and driving. Research shows that hours of exposure to boating stressors produces a kind of a fatigue, or "boater's hypnosis" which slows reaction time almost as much as if you were legally drunk. Adding alcohol or drugs to boating stress-factors intensifies their affects - each drink multiplies your accident risk.
Read More About This Topic
Page 1: Alcohol and Boating: Think Before You Drink
Page 3: Alcohol Myths and Facts
Foundation Findings: Alcohol and Boating
Understand Alcohol Impairment
Understand Alcohol Impairment
Alcohol impairment increases the likelihood of accidents—for both passengers and boat operators. Always designate non-drinking boaters to operate the boat and to act as an observer if your group plans to consume alcohol. Do not allow your skipper to operate if he or she is drinking. According to Canadian statistics, alcohol is a major contributor to pleasure craft accidents and fatalities.
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