With the coming of summer, boating enthusiasts begin heading toward the Cumberland River or to one of the region's beautiful lakes. Wherever you plan to go, remember that boating under the influence of alcohol can be more hazardous than drinking and driving.
Boating accelerates the effects of alcohol
Sun, wind, water and spray combined with engine noise and vibration are hazardous to anyone who consumes alcohol while boating. These are stressors that ultimately cause fatigue and accelerate the impairment of those who imbibe. Although they risk arrest on suspicion of DUI, motorists who drink and drive are at least familiar with the operation of their vehicles. However, the same does not apply to the majority of recreational boaters. Often, they are not as experienced on the water as they are on the road.
How to know if alcohol is causing impairment
Balance or coordination issues may be among the first indications that you have had too much to drink. Alcohol will impair your physical abilities, which includes slowing down your reaction time. You will also find that alcohol adversely affects your cognitive abilities. Processing information becomes more difficult, which can lead to the inability to make good decisions. Your depth perception and peripheral vision will decrease, and you will have trouble distinguishing colors.
Another area that alcohol affects is the inner ear. This is a problem because, if you should fall into the water, you may not be able to tell up from down.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) penalties
The penalties associated with a BUI conviction are a good indication that boating under the influence of alcohol is at least as dangerous, and as serious, as a DUI. For a first offense, it is a Class A misdemeanor. You face a fine of up to $2,500 and jail time of up to 11 months and 29 days. You must pay restitution for any injuries or personal losses that occurred as the result of the BUI offense, and the court may suspend your vessel-operating privileges for up to one year. You must also perform community service and attend alcohol safety BUI classes.
Keep in mind that a reduction in penalties is always possible, as is probation and other remedies. However, you still need to take an arrest for boating under the influence seriously. If you are charged with BUI, don't put off exploring your legal options.