Great Lakes Coast Guard continues efforts to enforce boating-under-the-influence laws

Ninth CG District Logo - D9
CLEVELAND — Coast Guard law enforcement teams continued to remove unsafe boaters from the Great Lakes over the weekend, approaching the 100th boating-under-the-influence citation for the boating season in a worrisome trend.

To date, more BUI citations have been issued this season than at similar points in two of the past three years.

Through Aug. 13 BUI Citations
2012 84
2011 92
2010 54

Alcohol consumption continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths. According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2012 report, the most current validated statistics available, alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in nearly 17% of the recreational boating deaths in 2012.

“Keeping the waterways safe for everyone is a top Coast Guard priority, which is why we enforce boating-under-the-influence laws so rigorously,” said Rear. Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard 9th District. “BUI puts everyone on the water in danger, not just the person who is irresponsibly drinking. Passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.”

“Not only is boating under the influence just as illegal as driving under the influence, it’s just as dangerous,” said Cmdr. David Beck, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Enforcement Branch. “The environmental influences of the sun, vibration, waves and dehydration can magnify the effects of consuming alcohol on the water. Coast Guard crews on the Great Lakes have conducted more than 10,000 recreational boating safety boardings this season. Roughly 1% of these boardings have resulted in a BUI citation. The percentage of intoxicated boaters may not seem high to some, but drinking and boating is a high risk activity that boat operators can control.  If you plan to consume alcohol, plan ahead and have a sober operator return you home safely.”

BUI laws are enforced at the state and federal level.  Penalties for BUI conviction by the state are governed by the applicable state BUI laws.

Consequences of BUI conviction vary based on location of the incident, enforcement option exercised, and specific facts of each case, including repetitive violations and negligent operations. Civil penalties can be as high as $5,000, and a federal ticket may result in a Class A misdemeanor. Collateral consequences of BUI conviction could include increased insurance premiums and, for licensed mariners, revocation and/or suspension of merchant mariner credentials.

The Coast Guard recently approved the use of a seated sobriety test for determing if a boat operator was impaired.

The Coast Guard encourages public participation in many forms of recreational activity on the Great Lakes. State boating registration data from 2010 and 2011 indicates over 883,000 boats in counties along the lakes.

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