Between the sweltering summers that almost necessitate access to water and its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, the State of Maryland is a boat-owners dream. On those 100-degree, 2000% humidity days, there are few things better than taking a boat out onto the Chesapeake and sitting back as the waves gently rock. But if you decide to bring some drinks and maybe a few friends on your voyage, make sure you do so responsibly or you could be facing a serious charge.
The term DUI Is typically used in reference to operating a personal automobile, and even when the term describes use of a different type of vehicle, it is almost exclusively one that operates on dry land. But a DUI can apply to pretty much anything that you “drive” and that includes boats. If you are found to be operating a boat while above the legal limit for intoxication (the same for both boats and cars at .08), you can have charges levied against you similar to those you might experience if driving a car.
According to a Natural Resources Police spokesman, via DelMarVa.com, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol might be even more dangerous than driving a car under the influence. There are a number of things that make driving a car easier for the driver than operating a boat. Air conditioning, limited exposure to direct sunlight and the suspension on cars to help handle bumps all help the driver. But someone operating a boat is not afforded these luxuries. They are exposed to the elements, including potentially a lot of heat and direct sunlight. There is also the issue of dealing with waves and tides. Operating a car and a boat while under the influence are both extremely dangerous, but operating a boat might even increase the danger because of the difficult conditions already in place.
The circumstances that could lead to your arrest for operating a boat under the influence are very similar to that of operating a car. Police officers are on the water and on the lookout for boaters they feel might be operating their vessel under the influence. If you operate the boat without necessary lights on, speed excessively or take turns unusually sharp, you may be stopped to find out if you are under the influence.
The good news is that the percentages of boating accidents that can be attributed to alcohol are on a steep decline. In the past few years it had been averaging about 8%, but that total was down to 2% in 2011. But even though there are no DUI roadblocks or cops hiding on the open water waiting for speeders, a DUI arrest on the water does not have to come as the result of a crash. The NRP reports that there were 124 DUI boating arrests in 2011, but that the infractions only produced 23 accidents.
The summer is really just beginning, and according to statistics, July is the month that has the highest frequency of boating accidents. Driving a boat while under the influence is every bit as dangerous as driving a car drunk, and it should be viewed by the boat’s owner as a similarly destructive act. If you are going to take a boat on the water, and the person is choosing to drink alcohol, make sure they do so responsibly.