By Caryn Schulenberg
With boating season upon us, lake lovers are getting excited about hitting the water in their boats. Whether they plan a lazy ride around the lake, pulling skiers or kids on an innertube, or hanging out with a fishing pole hoping for a great catch, getting out there is all they can think of…that and some refreshments. As we all know, being at the lake and relaxing with a few beers always seem to go together, but the result of putting these two things together can be disastrous. While many people drink while on a boat, there are laws concerning boating and drinking.
Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol, like operating an automobile while under the influence of alcohol is a federal offence. In many states, the laws are very similar to the laws for drinking and driving…and it doesn’t matter if your boat has a motor or not. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% g/dL, just like it is in an automobile. This law includes a canoe, kayak, or rowboat. That may seem odd, but anytime you are impaired, bad things can happen.
Each state can impose its own penalties for drinking and driving a boat in state-controlled waters too. Penalties like loss or suspension of boating license, fines, jail time, criminal charges, mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program or an alcohol education class, loss of driving privileges, and impact on driving record and insurance coverage, seizure of the boat, impoundment, and even sale of the vessel are not unusual, and these are the things that you can recover from. Death or severe injury to yourself or others because you were drinking is forever.
While the legal blood alcohol concentration limits apply to those of legal drinking age, 21 or older, the penalties for underage drinkers can be much stiffer. Still, many states have zero-tolerance laws for boating and drinking any amount of alcohol. In states, like Florida for instance, the Boat-Ed Florida Handbook states that by operating a vessel in the state's waters, a person gives consent to be tested for the presence of alcohol and/or drugs, if a police officer requests it. Refusing to be tested can lead to additional penalties. Summertime means boating at the lake. Make sure you are safe and legal, so everyone has a great time.