Drinking and boating: An illegal, dangerous combination

WASHINGTON – Many people think it is not a big deal, but drinking alcohol on a boat can be more dangerous than on dry land.

“For some reason, people feel that they can get on a boat and that’s time to open up a can of something,” says Captain Steve Chaconas, a bass fishing guide on the Potomac River. “This is a safe, fun activity. But it can turn bad in just a few moments, and if you’re under the influence of alcohol it could be devastating.”

Drinking can affect a person’s vision, judgement and balance, which are especially important on a boat. The Coast Guard says exposure to things like motion, sun and engine noise on a boat can also amplify the effects of alcohol.

“Drinking and operating any kind of machinery is not very smart,” Chaconas says. “We’ve delivered the message in automobiles. It’s time that we get the message out for boating.”

Boating under the influence, or BUI, is illegal in every state. Earlier this month, Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer was sentenced to 30 days in jail for BUI.

The Coast Guard says last year, alcohol use was a contributing factor in 368 boat accidents and 140 boating deaths nationwide, including 4 deaths in Maryland and 1 in Virginia.

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