Alcohol is involved in approximately 30 percent of boating fatalities in Oregon each year, 50-70 percent nationwide.
Oregon's BUII laws apply to motorized and non-motorized watercraft alike. Remember, in a raft, everyone with a paddle is an operator.
All 48 mainland states now have a legal limit of 0.08% BAC to be considered "Under the Influence". A drug or alcohol impaired boat operator who is arrested for Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII) faces the following:
- could face fines of up to $6,250 and up to a year in jail
- must complete a boating safety class
- lose his or her boat operation privileges for a period of time
- have boat registrations suspended for up to three years
While BUII laws pertain to boat operators, a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that an intoxicated passenger is as likely to die as an intoxicated operator.
Many boaters think of collisions as the greatest threat when drinking on the water. According to BOAT/U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety, an estimated 75 percent of alcohol-related boating accidents and injuries do not involve collisions.
Most fatalities occur from falls overboard, not collisions. Alcohol makes it harder to control the gasping reflex that occurs involuntarily when the face or upper body is suddenly immersed in cold water. An intoxicated person is more likely to inhale water into the lungs when plunged suddenly into cold water.
Alcohol affects balance, vision, coordination and judgment. Environmental factors that come with boating - such as wind, sun, noise and motion - can magnify the effects of alcohol and accelerate impairment. Research shows that as little as four hours of exposure to sun, wind, glare, vibration and other motion on the water produces "boater's hypnosis," a kind of fatigue that slows reaction time almost as much as if a person were drunk.
For more information, contact the Oregon State Marine Board.