If your idea of a perfect Maryland summer day involves boating, it may also involve a cooler or mini refrigerator stocked with beer or (depending on the size of your boat) a fully-stocked bar. However, if you’re the one operating the boat, it’s essential to understand the dangers of drinking while out on the water and the legal penalties for boating under the influence (BUI).
These penalties can involve fines, the suspension or loss of your boating license and potentially jail time. BUI laws are enforced by state law enforcement agencies as well as by the U.S. Coast Guard. They apply to people operating everything from yachts to rowboats and canoes.
Some people have the mistaken belief that it’s safer to operate a boat while under the influence than a car. In fact, it can be more dangerous. Alcohol impacts balance, coordination, judgment and reaction time. If you’re out on the water dealing with wind, sun, spray and engine noise, even a drink or two can seriously impact your ability to operate the vessel safely.
Further, most people don’t operate a boat every day as they do a car. Therefore, even “experienced” boaters don’t spend a lot of hours on the water. The average is 110 hours annually.
The impact of alcohol on cognitive abilities, physical dexterity, reaction time and judgment can prove deadly if you get into trouble on the water. According to the Coast Guard, in over half of fatal boating accidents, victims fell overboard and/or capsized their vessels.
Under Maryland law, boat operators with a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent are considered to be BUI. However, people can be arrested for BUI if they are determined to be impaired by any amount of alcohol and/or drugs.
The consequences of a BUI arrest and conviction can be just as severe as the consequences of a DUI. That’s why it’s essential to take it seriously and understand your rights and legal options.