Nothing beats going out on the lake on a perfect, hot summer day, or enjoying the long summer evenings on the water with a sunset cruise. Unfortunately, too many people take alcohol with them on their boating excursions and the results can be disastrous, even fatal. Most people don’t take drinking and boating as seriously as drinking and driving. Fatalities are lower on the water simply because there are fewer boats on the water than there are cars on the roads. When you hit the water this summer, leave the alcohol on land.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading factor in boating accident fatalities. Among all accidents in boats, alcohol ranks number seven among the causes, behind operator inattention and inexperience but ahead of hazardous waters and rough weather. In 2012, the Coast Guard reported 2,454 boating accidents that occurred while the boat was being operated. Of those, alcohol caused 280 accidents, 109 deaths and 227 injuries.
Consequences of Drinking and Boating
Clearly, death is the most devastating consequence of drinking while operating a boat. If you are operating a boat and drinking at the same time, it’s not just you who is at risk. You are putting all of your passengers at risk, as well as people in other boats on the water. Even when fatalities don’t occur, there can be injuries and destruction of property in boating accidents.
Operating a boat while under the influence is illegal in every state. Even if you never have an accident or hurt anyone, you could be facing legal and financial consequences if you are caught drinking and boating. Federal laws also ban drinking, drug use and boating. If you are caught in Coast Guard-patrolled, waters you could be violating federal law.
You Get Drunker Quicker on a Boat
Not everyone realizes this, but when you’re drinking while on a boat, you will become impaired more quickly than if you were drinking on land. The effects of sun and heat dehydrate you and leave you feeling drunk with less alcohol. Add to that the rocking motion of the boat, the fatigue that sets in with drinking and heat, and you have a combination that is more dangerous than operating a car while drinking. Boat operators are also often less experienced with boats than with cars and are more likely to have accidents when only mildly impaired.
Enjoy Boating Without Alcohol
Drinking on a boat is just too risky. Leave the alcohol back on shore and bring cold, non-alcoholic drinks instead. Water, soda and juice will keep you better hydrated and sober. Make sure you also bring other items to keep you safe and to protect you from the heat and sun. Have food available and bring hats, cover-ups and sunscreen to protect against the sun, as well as towels and, of course, all the fun water toys you need to enjoy the day out.
Being out on the water in the summer is one of the joys of the season. Playing in the water, having fun and spending time with friends and family are great for making memories. Don’t ruin the good times with alcohol. Wait until you are off the boat for the day to crack open the cooler and relax on shore. You may regret drinking and boating, but you will never regret an alcohol-free day on the water.