Summertime for many people in Maryland means days spent out on their boat with friends and it is not uncommon for alcohol to be present. However, mixing alcohol with operating a boat can be just as dangerous to everyone on the water as drinking and driving. The United States Coast Guard states that in 2014, 21 percent of all deaths connected to recreational boating involved alcohol – that equaled to 108 lives. Additionally, alcohol was identified in boating accidents as the No. 5 leading cause, resulting in more than 248 injuries.
According to the American Boating Association, many states have begun working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Mothers Against Drunk Driving to address a widespread culture of drinking and boating. Boaters are encouraged to leave their boat stationary if they are going to consume alcohol, anchor the boat for the night, or even designate someone who is not drinking as the one to pilot the craft. The department is not discouraging people from bringing alcohol with them – only to use good judgment as they are encouraged to if they were driving.
To discourage boaters and change the original culture, states are now passing boating while intoxicated laws, establishing legal penalties for those who are caught. These penalties may include jail time, increased insurance premiums, prison sentences for accidents that resulted in serious bodily harm to another person and fines. Some states are even adding laws that allow them to take peoples’ motor vehicle licenses and add the BWI conviction to them.
It is estimated that the rate of becoming involved in a fatal boat accident is 10 times higher for someone who is operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of 10 percent or more. Additionally, statistics show that drinking and boating has shown a steady rise over the last several years.