Boaters have come up with a cocktail that’s a deadly tradition. Combine a large measure of water with a full tank of gas and mix generously with a cooler of beer, and it’s good times. However, according to the Coast Guard, there are a lot of bad times too. In 2010 there were 126 alcohol-related deaths. Compare that with 49 deaths caused by inattention and 18 by excessive speed. One problem is that on the water you can handle less fun than on land. Factors such as heat, sun, vibration, wind and noise amplify the effects of booze. Chris Huebner, North Carolina’s boating safety coordinator, says, “it can take as little as one-third the alcohol on water as on land to be impaired.”
Legislators are aware of this, and many states are lowering the legal blood alcohol level from a generous 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent — which is the typical standard for cars. Right now, only a few states are left at the higher number. Texas even has “no refusal” weekends, with on-site judges to issue search warrants for those unwilling to take a breath test, to get you into the slammer faster. While duis in cars and boats used to be treated separately, in New York your second conviction, no matter what type of vehicle it’s in, will be a felony. Not our idea of fun. So, save the cold ones until the dock lines are secure, or think of how you’ll look in an orange jumpsuit.
* * * * *
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.