From 1961, when statistics began to be collected, to 1992, boating accidents have claimed more lives than airplane and train accidents and injured thousands more. In the United States, waterways are second only to highways as the scene of accidental deaths. The Coast Guard and the US Congress recognize that drugs and alcohol pose a significant threat to navigation.
The operation of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. According to 33 CFR 95, if a recreational boat operator has a blood alcohol content of .08 or more, they are considered boating under the influence. There are several possible penalties in such cases, including a civil fine of $1000 or less, a criminal fine of $5,000, or a year in prison.
When boaters are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are cited by Coast Guard officials, they may also be cited by state or local law enforcement officials. The penalties for criminal offenses vary from state to state. Often, they include the loss of motor vehicle operating privileges, fines, and imprisonment.
Are there any other losses associated with drinking or using drugs? Of course, your JUDGMENT, AWARENESS, PERCEPTION and REACTION TIME. Boat operators who were intoxicated reported worse performance in skills tests than sober operators, despite instrument readings that showed their performance was lower. The effect of alcohol or drugs on inhibitions may result in typically cautious people putting themselves in high-risk situations that a sober individual would never attempt. Boaters should remain alert while operating their watercraft and avoid using drugs and alcohol. The effects of alcohol are compounded by other stressors related to being on the water (e.g. sun, glare, dehydration, heat, wind, fatigue, etc.). Passengers who are drinking should be especially encouraged to wear life jackets.