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Enjoy Your Boating and Save Your Drinking for Later


As the weather warms up, that means it’s time to head for your favorite lake, river, or ocean for some boating. Getting out on a boat is a great way to escape for a weekend with friends and family, possibly having a drink or two while you’re out there.

Unfortunately, many people consider drinking while boating less seriously than drinking while driving. The CDC says that alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating incidents. You may not have heard about this, but a BUI – Boating Under the Influence – charge is similar to getting a DUI – Driving Under the Influence – charge in a car or truck. You can end up in just as much trouble!

You can still have fun out on the water while decreasing your risk of an expensive ticket, injury or even death. Here’s a few tips on keep things safe.

Use a designated boat driver—just like you would with a car.

Choose a boat driver who will not be drinking, and allow that person to drive without distractions. It’s very easy in a small boat to distract the driver through conversation and yelling. Keep the partying away from the driver to make sure he or she can concentrate, and never allow anyone who has been drinking to take the wheel – even for a moment.

If possible, save all drinking for when you’re on shore.

While it’s not illegal to drink on a boat in Georgia, it’s safer if everyone stays sober. Just because passengers aren’t driving doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk for falling out of the boat or getting injured – more so when you mix in alcohol. You may be far from shore and it would take a while to get medical attention for an injured passenger.

Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.

Whether drinking or not, require that everyone wears a life jacket. If you think this will ruin your party, consider that “In 2009, 3,358 people were injured and 736 died in boating incidents. Of those who drowned, 9 out of 10 were not wearing life jackets” (CDC). A simple life jacket could likely have saved these people’s lives.

Provide food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Offer food and non-alcoholic drink options like water, lemonade, and soda. Plenty of food and water may minimize the effects of the alcohol or keep people from drinking as much alcohol.

Watch out for heat exhaustion.

When you’re out on the water, you’re exposed to the sun and the heat of the day—usually without air conditioning. You will get dehydrated quickly in the sun, and alcohol dehydrates you even faster. Drink plenty of water, wear clothing that keeps you cool, and seek shade when overheated.

Watch for other drunk boaters—especially during holidays.

You may follow all of the rules, but others may not. That’s another reason why you need to stay alert. People don’t always take drinking and boating seriously, so avoid other boats weaving in the water or showing other erratic behavior. Holidays especially bring out unseasoned boaters who don’t have a lot of experience driving a boat—and drinking just makes it worse.

So, go out and have fun on the water. But be creative as to how you have fun. We recommend that you save your drinking for where it’s safe—on land. It’s not illegal to drink as a passenger on a boat in Georgia, but there are many things that can go wrong.

If you’re injured in a boating accident or receive a BUI or DUI citation, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Buzzell, Welsh & Hill for a free consultation.

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