Sunshine. Friends and family. Fun on the water. In Florida, we all know this is a great way to spend any day, whether you are out fishing, snorkeling, jet-skiing, or just pleasure cruising. The goal is to relax and spend time with people you enjoy, while still making safety a top priority.
As with any recreational scenario, all too often alcohol enters the picture and a good day spirals out of control, especially after a full day of activity and exposure to the sun.
While passengers enjoying alcohol in moderation is acceptable, the ‘captain’ should consider drinking and boating to be just as dangerous as drinking and driving a car. While it may be more difficult to assess whether someone is boating under the influence, the consequences can be just as catastrophic, or worse.
Statistics released for 2015 showed that there were 4,158 accidents involving boats in the US. There were 626 deaths, and 2,603 injuries reported by the Coast Guard—along with $42 million in damage overall. Out of the deaths reported, 22 were children under 13. In 17 percent of these cases, alcohol was listed as the primary factor.
In Florida, boating while impaired is illegal, with someone operating a vessel presumed to be under the influence if their blood- or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
If you are suspected of boating while under the influence, you may have to undergo sobriety exams and/or a breathalyzer test. These cases are taken very seriously in Florida, and a BUI is much like a DUI. Consequences include large fines, possible felony conviction, and even jail time.
It’s crucial to be completely alert while boating, taking responsibility for passengers who could be seriously injured or thrown from the boat and into the water in the case of an accident.
Lack of focus while boating is one of the most common causes for accidents—an issue only exacerbated when the operator of the vessel has been drinking, with judgment impaired and reflexes slowed down.
All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for your enjoyment and informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.