Late summer is a popular time for recreational boaters, and consequently a time of increased boating injuries, many of which involve alcohol as a contributing factor. Operating, or even riding in a boat while intoxicated poses a number of dangers that may not become evident until it’s too late. According to the U.S. Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.), alcohol is particularly dangerous to boaters for these reasons, among others:
- "Cognitive abilities and judgment deteriorate, making it harder to process information, assess situations, and make good choices.
- Physical performance is impaired – evidenced by balance problems, lack of coordination, and increased reaction time.
- Vision is affected, including decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, decreased night vision, poor focus, and difficulty in distinguishing colors (particularly red and green).
- Inner ear disturbances can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.
- Alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth – which may prevent a person in cold water from getting out before hypothermia sets in."
If you’re planning a boating outing this summer or early fall, take note of these U.S.C.G.-recommended alternatives to using alcohol while afloat:
- "Take along a variety of cool drinks, such as sodas, water, iced tea, lemonade or non-alcoholic beer.
- Bring plenty of food and snacks.
- Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool.
- Plan to limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue. Remember that it’s common to become tired more quickly on the water.
- If you want to make alcohol part of your day’s entertainment, plan to have a party ashore at the dock, in a picnic area, at a boating club, or in your backyard…. Choose a location where you’ll have time between the fun and getting back into your car or boat.
- If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol with your meal, wait a reasonable time (estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink) before operating your boat.
- Having no alcohol while aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water — intoxicated passengers are also at risk of injury and falls overboard.
- Spread the word on the dangers of BUI. Many recreational boaters forget that a boat is a vehicle – and that safe operation is a legal and personal responsibility."
Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
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