Now that the weather is getting warmer every day and the summer is fast approaching, more Southern Californians will be hitting the beaches and lakes for fun in the sun. If you are like many residents in sunny Orange County, you enjoy boating along OC’s breathtaking coastline. After all, boating is a great way to get away from our busy lives and enjoy the outdoors.
When it comes to the rituals of boating, it is no secret that people across the globe partake in an alcoholic beverage while boating, and they have been doing this for a very long time. While “boating under the influence” of alcohol was not considered that dangerous a hundred years ago, today’s numbers of boating accidents tell a different story.
Intoxicated Boaters & Serious Accidents
The State of California Department of Boating and Waterways reports that in California, intoxicated boaters have caused serious accidents, many of which resulted in property damage, injuries, and many fatalities. What many boaters do not realize is that the effects of alcohol can be more pronounced when they are operating a vessel rather than a vehicle.
When factors such as engine noise, sun, dehydration, wave action, temperature, glare, vibration, and wind are combined with alcohol, the hazards associated with driving a boat can be greatly intensified. As a depressant, alcohol reduces depth perception, balance, coordination, concentration, and reaction time. It only takes a few drinks for a boater to experience impaired judgment and become overconfident, causing the boater to take more risks than usual.
Consequences of Boating Under the Influence
California does not have an “open container” law for boats as it does for other vehicles; however, it is just as illegal to boat under the influence (BUI) of alcohol as it is to drive a car while intoxicated. The legal consequences of BUI include:
- Up to one year in jail, or
- Up to a $1,000 fine, or both.
If you injured someone else, you may be charged with a felony, and you could face up to one year in prison and a fine up to $5,000. If you killed another person while boating under the influence, you face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.
Over 150 local and state agencies enforce California’s boating laws, some of which monitor boats in and around Dana Point Harbor and Newport Harbor. Due to there being so many intoxicated boat operators, authorities expressed that they are increasing their efforts to reduce alcohol-related boating accidents throughout the state.