By Brianna Dungan and Harrison Sarner, THELAW.TV
Everyone knows that driving a car while intoxicated can land you in jail. But did you know that operating a boat under the influence of alcohol can get you arrested too? While you may not know the laws regarding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) on the water and when you can legally operate a boat, law enforcement does, and they will be on the lookout this July 4th holiday weekend for boaters under the influence (BUI).
Laws vary from state to state, 47 out of 50 states have BAC limits of 0.08% when operating a water vessel. Michigan, North Dakota, and Wyoming adhere to 0.1%.
Boating under the influence is a big deal. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It was the main factor in 17% of the 651 deaths involving registered recreational vehicles in 2012.
If you’re under 21, drinking alcohol is illegal. In Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Utah, and Wisconsin minors are not allowed to register a BAC higher than 0.00%, if operating a boat or other water vessel. However, California is one of the exceptions, allowing minors to consume alcohol of up to a 0.01% BAC level, but after that, you’re not allowed to drive your boat or even use your own water skis.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, “people operating a boat with a BAC of over .08% are 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than someone driving a boat while sober.” So whether you’ll be hitting the road or water this holiday weekend, be responsible when drinking.
To learn about the BUI laws in your state, BoatingUndertheInfluence.org has a chart documenting all 50 states and their current legal BAC levels.
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