Can I Drink & Drive My Boat?

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Can I Drink & Drive My Boat?

Summer fun is approaching quickly but remember as you stock up those coolers who's going to be the designated driver. Why you should never drive your boat under the influence!

February 24, 2020
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Summer is around the corner, temps are rising, and people are going to be setting out on their boats to the rivers, lakes, and ocean to relax, sunbathe, and party. While this sounds like something to look forward to, let's take a moment to remember basic boating rules, regulations, and laws.

With more people on the water you’re likely to see more people abusing some of the rules of good boating. One of the major things you’ll likely see at islands, sandbars, and other areas where boating gatherings take place is the consumption of alcohol. As the operator of a vessel remember the rules of using alcohol while also being the captain of your boat. As the captain of the boat, you need to be in charge of the people on your boat and yourself.

Drinking on a boat is not illegal and with moderation can be a nice way to relax in the sun with your close friends and family. However, when it comes to operating a boat you need to know your limits and stay on the side of safe. Legally speaking you may not drive your boat while intoxicated or under the influence of any substances on any body of water. Keep in mind that each state has their own rules and regulations and even some bodies of water have specific rules. So, before you hit the water with a case of beer, freshen up on the rules and make note of any changes to laws that may have gone into effect for the new season.

A game wardens’ jobs on the water is to make sure everyone is safe and having a good time within the constraints of the law. They may stop you for is a simple check to see if you’re carrying the appropriate number of life jackets for each person on your boat. A few other safety inspection items they may check for are fire extinguishers, throwable flotation devices, and navigation lights. While on board checking, they may notice the operator is slurring speech and then may ask for a sobriety test.

It’s important to insure that as the boat operator you stay within the legal limits and in most states those limits are the same as if you were driving a car, if you’re above the blood alcohol level of 0.08 BAC you can be subject to a BUI or boating while under the influence and the penalties will be the same as a DUI. In South Carolina, for example, the law states that "convicted boaters will be subject to a minimum fine of $200 and up to 30 days imprisonment for their first offense." Subsequent convictions will result in more severe penalties and steeper fines. Let's avoid this and continue having a good time on the water is have a designated driver, same as you would if you were going to a bar in town.

PRO TIP: If you choose to drink, drink in moderation and know your limits, do not go above the legal BAC and do not risk other boaters and their families this season. Stay safe.

Resources about the consumption of alcohol while driving a boat: