Are You Allowed To Drink And Boat?

I may be biased, but boating is, without a doubt, one of the best recreational activities you can choose to enjoy on a day off! However, making sure you boat safely and follow the laws is important for the safety of yourself and those around you.

Like any motorized vehicle, driving a boat comes with responsibility. You cannot drive a boat if your blood alcohol level (BAC) is above 0.08 or in some states it’s 0.10. However, it is legal to have open containers in your boat, but you cannot drink while operating a boat.

Click this link to see a chart of the different BAC levels for boating in each state.

What are the risks associated with boating and drinking?

Let’s face it; boating can be dangerous if performed recklessly or under unsafe conditions. It’s the same as driving a car or another high-speed vehicle, and if you want to be safe, then you want to make smart choices. If you’re drinking alcohol, it is going to have an impact on the way that your brain and body function. Some of the symptoms that come from drinking alcohol include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dehydration and nausea
  • Delayed responses in the brain
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Blacking out and impaired memory

If you’re driving at fast speeds, you need to be aware of possible dangers and obstacles that can present themselves in the water. These obstacles can result in potentially hazardous situations when driving a boat. For example, in a lake, you must watch for people in the water, floating debris, and other boaters in the area. In the ocean, you’ll need to watch for these things in addition to larger waves, the tide, and animals swimming nearby.

If you are operating a motorized vehicle, you don’t want anything interfering with your decision-making capabilities. The American Boating Association released a survey in 2016 that concluded alcohol was the number one contributor to boating fatalities.

Alcohol leads people to make poor choices that can result in collisions, drowning, and other fatal accidents. You owe a duty to your passengers and the other people on the water not to be distracted or intoxicated when driving a boat.

What are the laws on drinking and boats?

Operating a boat anywhere in the United States while impaired by alcohol is illegal and against the law. The standard for determining if an individual is intoxicated is the same as the laws on the highway. Therefore, if you are pulled over by a patrol boat and seem drunk, you will be subjected to a breathalyzer test.

If you have a blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) over .08 or in some states .10, you will be subject to a civil penalty, and depending on the state, these penalties get progressively worst if your level is higher. Check out this link here to get a chart of BAC limits in all 50 states.

What are the penalties and consequences for drinking and boating?

If you drink over the limit when boating and get caught, you risk facing several penalties based on the severity of the crime. In some states, the penalty could be a suspension of your boating license or a charge on your driving record. In others, you can risk having your boat seized and sold at an auction.

Furthermore, you will be fined between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the severity of the crime.  If your actions result in serious harm or even the death of another person when operating a boat under the influence, you risk five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

These are just some penalties that the government has set out for irresponsible boaters. On top of this, your actions can have a toll on the people in your life and your own peace of mind. Don’t make a decision that can cause a lifetime of regret.

What are some ways you can stay safe if you or others are drinking on your boat?

Unfortunately, many people will continue to operate a boat when drinking, despite the government’s rules and suggestions against it. Others will allow drinking to take place on their boat but not correctly manage the actions of people onboard. If you decide to drink or let people drink on your boat, you can follow a few precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

1. Don’t participate in any water activities.

If you or your passengers have been drinking, then don’t engage in any towed sports activities. This includes sports like waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, or wake surfing. The reason for this is that alcohol makes it more difficult for you to breathe and swallow, so if you happen to fall into the water, you risk the chance of drowning. It also leads people to do dumb things which increases the chance of injury.

2. Stay hydrated and out of the sun.

Make sure to drink lots of water and stay out of the sun if you feel unwell or nauseous. Drinking leads to dehydration and fatigue. In addition, if it is a hot day, you might be sweating and swimming, so your body will be extra tired and dehydrated. Drinking water can also help speed up the sobering up process so you can get back to operating the boat.

3. Wear lifejackets

A life jacket is one of your boat’s most valuable tools and safety equipment. It is a requirement to have a life jacket of the appropriate size for each passenger on the vessel. If you’re unsure of the correct size, you should be able to find the details written somewhere on the life jacket. If someone is very drunk, it may be a good idea to put them in a life jacket in case they fall into the water.

4. Don’t let passengers get too drunk.

It’s a well-known fact that drinking impairs good decision-making and can lead to some unfortunate accidents. For example, drinking leads to poor coordination and balance, resulting in a passenger accidentally falling overboard. Therefore, even if they aren’t operating the boat, keeping your passengers from drinking too much when they’re onboard is a better option.  

5. Don’t bring glass on the boat.

A glass bottle or cup might look and feel classier, but it’s not worth the additional hazard. The last thing you want is for someone to drop their drink and have the glass shatter on the boat’s deck. Instead, opt to drink from cans or plastic cups that won’t break if dropped and can be easily stored away after use.

Final Thoughts

You can enjoy all the fun activities, and excitement boating has to offer without drinking and being irresponsible. If you are the captain of your ship, then you are responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone onboard. Boating and drinking will put everyone, including yourself, at risk.

In addition, the United States has made it clear that boating when impaired is illegal, and anyone caught doing so will be penalized to the full extent of the law. The penalties range from several thousand dollars in fines to jail time, depending on the severity of the crime committed. Don’t take unnecessary chances and make the mistake of sacrificing your well-being for a few beers with your friends. Instead, make smart choices and enjoy being out on the water while staying safe and having fun!