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Drinking and boating just don’t mix. The combination can be – and often is – deadly.

Drinking and driving an automobile is illegal. Drinking and driving a boat is also illegal. Although both are against the law and penalties are harsh, there are very different circumstances encountered while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

One is the effect of the surroundings. While drinking and boating on the water, the movement of the boat over the water causes an operator to be unsteady from the rocking of the boat. Add drinking, which also causes unsteadiness, and there is a double effect. Unfortunately, the effects are not felt until it’s too late.

Another different circumstance is hot weather. It causes dehydration, which not only increases the effects of alcohol, it also increases thirst, thus more alcohol is consumed. The more you drink, the worse you get, but you do not realize how great your impairment is until a problem occurs.

Unlike drinking on shore, there is no one nearby to give you a ride home and few places to pull in and get a cup of coffee to help you sober up. If a storm develops while you’re drinking and boating, you may find yourself unable to navigate properly. If you have passengers aboard, you are endangering them.

Running boats aground is a common event for those feeling the effects of alcohol. If you have an accident while boating under the influence, you don’t have the option of waiting to get help or flagging someone down to send for help. You may just have to wait until someone finds out your missing before help is sent to look for you.

Enforcement of boating while intoxicated is not as evident or reported in press releases as frequently as drinking and driving. In some areas, it may even be non-existent due to lack of marine patrols and proper prosecution.

A problem encountered regarding BWI is, who is in charge? Many state laws differ from federal laws and therefore state enforcement officers may not take action on federal waterways. Lack of a uniform enforcement code results in a feeling no one cares, so boaters drink too much thinking they will not be stopped.

The moral of this column is: boating under the influence can create a danger to all persons nearby. Do not assume action will be taken to stop the offender. On the water, apprehension can take too long or may not occur at all.

If you encounter a boater you suspect is inebriated, take evasive maneuvers and avoid them any way possible. If you’re going boating, leave the booze at the dock. If you’re going boozing, leave the boat at the dock.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Boats For Sale at BoatBrowser or our Lake Resource Guide at LakeBrowser or share your fishing stories and photos at True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away.

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