As the July 4th weekend approaches, many Californians will take to the water to celebrate. But what a number of people don’t realize is that boating under the influence (BUI) is a crime similar to DUI. Like a DUI, a BUI conviction can carry hefty penalties and leave you needing bail.
This weekend marked the third year in a row that law enforcement agencies are conducting Operation Dry Water . Launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and the California Department of Boating and Waterways, Operation Dry Water means increased presence on the water from local law enforcement in areas like Contra Costa County, Marin, Alameda, and San Francisco. This weekend-long crackdown on drunk boating is an effort to prepare boaters for a safe holiday, a time when the combination of boats and partying means more accidents on the water. “We want recreational boaters to have fun on the water, but we intend to exercise zero tolerance for BUI,” says John Fetterman, law enforcement director for NASBLA and national spokesperson for Operation Dry Water.
With the 2011 Operation Dry Water comes a battery of new field sobriety tests that are the start of a push to implement a national standard. According to an Operation Dry Water press release by Jennifer Matta, the new tests will “allow marine patrol officers to tests boaters in a seated position and apply a percentage of probability that the subject is impaired at .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or higher.”
In California, BUI falls under the Harbors and Navigation Code. The statute sets a zero tolerance policy for water craft such as aquaplanes and water skis, meaning that the user cannot ingest any alcohol at all. A conviction for boating under the influence will count on your record in future drunk-driving cases. This means that if you are convicted of a BUI and then a DUI later, the DUI can be counted as your second offense.
What Law Enforcement Says About BUI:
- U.S. Coast Guard 2009 data reveal that alcohol was a primary contributing factor in 16 percent of fatalities from recreational boating accidents.
- Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against federal law and most State laws.
- Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.
- Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion – “stressors” common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications.
- Alcohol consumption can result in an inner ear disturbance that can make it impossible for a person suddenly immersed in water to distinguish up from down.
- Impairment can be even more dangerous for boaters than for drivers, since most boaters have less experience and confidence operating a boat than they do driving a car. Boaters average only about 110 hours of boating per year.
- A three-year field evaluation by the Southern California Research Institute recently validated a battery of tests for marine use that are now the basis for efforts to implement a National Marine Field Sobriety Test standard.
- Combined with chemical tests using blood, breath, and urine samples., these validated ashore and afloat tests give marine law enforcement officers an impressive arsenal in their ongoing efforts to enforce BUI laws.
- Persons found to be Boating Under the Influence can expect to incur severe penalties. If a boat operator is BUI, the voyage may be terminated, the boat may be impounded and the operator may be arrested. Penalties vary by state, but can include fines, jail, loss of boating privileges, even loss of driving privileges.
- Alcohol is also dangerous for passengers. Intoxication can lead to slips, falls overboard and other dangerous accidents.
- It is illegal in every state and territory to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. BUI laws pertain to ALL boats, from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships.
Party safe if you’re out boating!
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