Summer is here and a lot of us are ready to escape the heat by taking to the water. Thousands of Georgians are on the water every weekend enjoying the state’s ample lakes, rivers and coastline. While a cold beer is a great refreshment on a hot day, if you boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you could be in for a world of legal trouble.

 

Alcohol and boating: A dangerous combo

Drinking while boating is both reckless and dangerous. Boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents, with the Coast Guard affirming that alcohol is more dangerous on the water than on land. There are many factors unique to boating that enhance the dangers of impairment:

  • Alcohol impedes reaction time, balance, judgement and vision — all critical skills needed on the water.
  • The sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion of boating can intensify the effects of alcohol and lead to quicker impairment.
  • Boaters are often less experienced on the water than drivers are on the roadways. The average boater is only on the water 110 hours per year.
  • Alcohol can cause inner-ear disturbances, making it easier to fall overboard and harder to find your way to the surface if you go under.
  • Alcohol creates a sense of warmth, slowing down reactions to hypothermia.

BUI penalties

Boating drunk is dangerous and Georgia law treats it as such. BUI is an offense as serious as drunk driving. Like drunk driving, the law considers anyone operating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 as impaired.

A BUI in Georgia is a misdemeanor offense. Anyone charged with BUI may receive a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail. Anyone under the age of 21 with a BAC greater than .02 can be charged with a BUI.

Anyone boating impaired with a child under age 14 on board may receive a child-endangerment charge on top of a BUI.

Seeking help

A BUI comes with serious consequences. If you or a loved one is charged with boating drunk, you may wish to seek the advice of an attorney who can present to you your options and guide you on the best path forward.