Boating Under the Influence

If drivers think land vehicles are only included in driving laws, think again. Boats are actually part of the law’s jurisdiction on driving under influence or driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI) cases, with its own boating under influence (BUI) category.

This means police officers and other officials have the right to stop vehicles in the water, the same way they can stop vehicles on land to ensure the safety of both driver and passenger.

It is important to remember that this also means the severity of the penalties that come with the charges can be at the same intensity or can even be graver than drivers with DUI/DWI charges. ┬áHere’s everything a prospective boat driver needs to know about boating under the influence.

First, anyone who operates a vehicle that can operate on sea such as boats (sailboat, fishing boat), a personal watercraft, a sailboat, or a yacht, is subjected to the penalties of BUI. Similar to its land vehicle counterparts, penalties come in various forms such as fines, or even suspensions (and even forfeiture) of a boating license.

According to the United States Coast Guard, “alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land.” This is the primary motivation as to why BUI regulations try to minimize boat-related fatalities.

Like in DWI/DUI cases, officers can pull over boats or even use checkpoints to check if the drivers of said water vehicles are intoxicated. Another sign to look for is the “boater’s fatigue,” which is affected by a ton of other factors as well. These include the heat and glare from the sun, wind, and even the motion of the boat.

Like in DWI/DUI cases, police officers still have two things to look for in potential BUI cases – this is, of course, a driver operating a vehicle on a body of water, and if said driver is exhibiting behavior of an intoxicated person.

It is at this point important for drivers to realize that there are also growing cases of BUI all around the United States. A lot of boating incidents actually involve the intake of alcohol or even drugs. This is why unlike some lighter penalties on DUI/DWI cases, BUI cases can even lead to criminal records.

Drivers ought to read their state’s specific laws on operating boats as they may not be the same for every state. Seafarers are also advised to ensure their boats are safe at all times, with proper knowledge on boating regulations of places they want to go to and that everyone has life vests and other survival materials.