Boating under the influence (BUI) can significantly increase the risk of an accident because it impairs a boater's ability to properly operate the vessel. In fact, statistics from the United States Coast Guard revealed that alcohol consumption was the primary cause of boating deaths in 2007 alone. In addition, a drunken boater is more likely to die in an accident compared to a sober one.

What many people do not realize is that BUI can be more deadly compared to DUI because it affects the following:

  • Reaction time- A boater's ability to avoid sudden dangers is significantly lowered by his alcohol consumption.

  • Balance- Alcohol can cause the boater or his passengers to fall overboard. In addition, it might prevent people from saving themselves once they are under the water.

  • Visual acuity- Alcohol consumption can negatively affect the boater's color, night, and peripheral vision.

  • Judgment- A boater can make irrational decisions because his cognitive reasoning is affected.

Boating Accidents Caused by Alcohol Consumption

As mentioned earlier, BUI increases the risk of an accident. When a passenger or boater is drunk, one of these two accidents will likely occur:

  • Falls overboard- According to statistics, over 80% of all boating accident fatalities were caused by drowning. Because alcohol can affect a person's balance and coordination, he will have a lower chance of surviving after falling overboard.

  • Collision- The chances that a boat will collide or crash into another vessel is higher when the boater is drunk. Alcohol can impair his ability to notice the presence of other boats or vessels. In fact, statistics showed that in California alone, over 50% of all boating accidents involved collisions.

Consequences of BUI under California Law

In California, operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited, though the state does not implement the "open container law."

Under California law:

  • A boater who was arrested for BUI may be asked to take a breath or blood test in order for authorities to determine his Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Refusing to take it may cause him graver punishments like jail, fine, or both.

  • If an accident caused by BUI resulted in deaths, the boater may be required to spend at least 10 years in prison.

  • If an accident caused by BUI resulted in injuries, the boater may be required to spend at least one year in jail or pay a $5,000 fine.

  • A boater who is guilty of BUI may be required to spend at least one year in prison and/or pay a fine that will not exceed $1,000.