Drunken Boating Claims Lives in Virginia
Sometimes when you are out on the water, it can be easy to disregard the laws you abide by when driving in your car.
Drinking and boating is a case in point. Some people think that because they are relaxing it’s fine to drink and pilot a boat. While the waters off Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads or the James River may not be as congested as I-264 at rush hour, there are many hazards of drinking alcohol while boating. It’s also illegal to pilot a boat when intoxicated.
Safe boating equires good vision, good hand and eye coordination and the ability to react suddenly if you are anticipating a problem. Boating traffic comes from all directions, and obstacles in the water can suddenly appear without warning. Driving a boat requires the full attention of the operator, as there can be numerous dangers and distractions in rivers or out at sea.
Alcohol use while boating is a serious problem. A recent study conducted in four southeastern states of boating accidents and incidents estimated alcohol was a contributing factor in an alarming 51 percent of motorboat fatalities in these states. Most of the people who got into trouble while drinking and boating were males aged 21 to 40 years of age, in small open motorboats and non-powered craft. Passengers in these boats were in as much danger as the driver, regardless of whether the boat was underway.
The U. S. Coast Guard states a boat operator with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) above 0.10 is more than 10 times as likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator who has consumed no alcohol. It’s a staggering statistic but not surprising when we consider that alcohol slows reaction times and impacts judgment and coordination.
There is also a strong body of evidence that the use of alcohol can severely impair an individual’s ability to swim. It makes it more difficult for swimmers to hold their breath, it suppresses the natural gag reflex, it saps the strength of the swimmer and can leave swimmers feeling disorientated.
When it comes to alcohol, the law for operating a motorboat is almost identical to that of a motor vehicle. The presumptive level for being under the influence of alcohol is 0.08 BAC. It is a criminal offense to operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol, narcotic drugs, or other self-administered intoxicants or drugs.
Virginia has a “Zero Tolerance” for anyone under 21 years of age, the state points out. Nobody under the age of 21 is permitted to operate a boat after consuming alcohol.
The penalty for a conviction of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) is as much as one year in jail or a $2,500 fine, a loss of the privilege of operating a boat for a year as well as the prospect of mandatory enrollment in the Alcohol Safety Action Program certified by the Commission on the Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). All convictions are reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If you are an inexperienced boater, you might want to consider taking a boating safety education course. Call 1-804-367-1125 for more details.
Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers sues drunk drivers who cause personal injury and death on the roads of Virginia. We also sue drunken boaters. Call Cooper Hurley at 757.455.0077.