Coast Guard warns of dangers of alcohol and boating

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CLEVELAND — As National Safe Boating Week continues, the Coast Guard 9th District reminds boaters of the dangers of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol.

According to the Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety’s 2013 Recreational Boating Statistics, alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents last year, contributing to 16% of deaths on the water.

When the Coast Guard determines that an operator is impaired due to alcohol, the operator’s voyage may be terminated and the operator may be arrested or turned over to state or local authorities. The vessel may be brought to a mooring by the Coast Guard or turned over to a competent and sober passenger.

Boateres found in violation of BUIs laws face both federal and state penalties. The federal statute can be found in Title 46, U.S. Code, Section 2302. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.

Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat for both passengers and boat operators. Coast Guard accident data show that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, more than half of the victims either capsized their boat or fell overboard.

Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. Elements of the marine environment— motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray — accelerate 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.

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