April alcohol incidents demonstrate dangers of boating under the influence

CLEVELAND – Recent incidents on western Lake Erie and Lake Ontario should serve to remind boaters of the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Sunday, a Coast Guard boarding team from Coast Guard Station Oswego, N.Y., boarded a recreational vessel in Sodus Bay and determined through field sobriety tests and the use of a breathalyzer that the vessel operator was legally intoxicated. The operator was cited for boating under the influence.

Between April 6 and 8, 2011, boatcrews from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, were underway conducting patrols near East Harbor and twice came upon vessels that were transiting through no-wake zones at a high rate of speed and failed to stop when ordered to do so. In both situations, Coast Guard law enforcement officers, working with members of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, cited both vessel operators for boating under the influence.

The Ninth Coast Guard District encourages all boaters to have safe fun on the water and reminds boaters to designate a sober operator and never operate a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Boating Under the Influence is a nation-wide problem with deadly consequences. In the marine environment, stressors such as noise, wind, sun and wave action can accelerate the effects of impairment, increasing the likelihood of a serious boating accident. Furthermore, passengers under the influence are at increased risk of an unexpected fall overboard while the vessel is underway, adrift or at anchor. Many of these unexpected falls overboard result in the death of the victim, usually by drowning.

Federal and state laws prohibit the operation of vessels while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These laws pertain to all vessel operators, including those in paddle craft. In addition, the federal law extends to all foreign vessels operating on U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels operating on the high seas.

The Ninth Coast Guard District wants to ensure that every boater understands the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and the leading factor in 16 percent of boating fatalities.
  • Alcohol can cause an inner ear disturbance which can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.

Penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges, jail time and civil liability.

For more information on Boating Under the Influence prevention, go HERE.


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