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Boating under the influence: Stay dry when you are on the water

Published on: 18:42PM Jun 02, 2015

Alcohol use is the primary contributing factor in recreational boater deaths, according to data compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. The sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion intensify the effects of alcohol.

Whether paddling a canoe on a creek or piloting a pontoon boat on a lake, Grinnell Mutual recommends that boaters enjoy the pleasures of boating responsibly.

“There is a misconception that you can drink on the water without consequences,” said Larry Gallagher, director of corporate loss control at Grinnell Mutual. “Excessive alcohol and boating do not mix. Boaters should consider the safety of those in their boats and the other boats near them.”

Boating while intoxicated is against the law

Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against federal law and most state laws. Boating under the influence (BUI) laws pertain to all vessels, from canoes to motorboats and pontoons. 

“Drunk boating and boating under the influence is more than a careless choice made by a few isolated boaters. Adults and children are killed every year in accidents on the water caused by boaters who were operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said John Fetterman, spokesperson for Operation Dry Water, a national campaign to build awareness for safe boating practices.

Boaters should also be aware of those who share the water with them. Be prepared with proper safety equipment, including life jackets for each passenger on board.

“We don’t always know how much alcohol the other boaters on the lake have consumed,” said Gallagher, who is also a boat owner. “An intoxicated boater might panic or oversteer, react inappropriately, and cause an accident.”

For more information

For more information about safe boating, visit Operation Dry Water, a joint program of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard, at