Recreational boating is a popular summer activity throughout the United States. Yet, the combination of boating with alcohol and drugs, or “boating under the influence (BUI)”, has serious public health, legal, and economic ramifications for both boat operators and passengers. According to numerous studies, alcohol use may actually be more hazardous on the water than on dry land. Being out on the water forces the brain to work overtime at adapting the body’s equilibrium. The addition of alcohol, drugs, and other intoxicants challenges the body’s sensory perception abilities. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion can intensify the effects of alcohol and drugs, thereby drastically reducing an operator’s vision, balance, coordination, judgment, and reaction time. Consequently, intoxication increases the risk of accidents and death while boating.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a boat while intoxicated. This resource examines how state laws differ as to the applicability of BUI laws in certain scenarios, the requirements for intoxication testing, as well as the type of penalties they assess.