Operating Under the Influence – Gill Cochran Gives Tips on Boating Safety

March 27, 2012

With spring in the air many boaters are heading to the waters for a day of fun. But if alcohol is part of the equation, a great day can turn serious in a matter of seconds. Most fatal boating accidents cite alcohol use as a contributing factor and boaters need to be aware that alcohol can have a greater physical impact on seas than on the land.

“Alcohol impairs your judgment and your ability to operate a vessel safely. Dehydration and the motion and vibration of the boat add to the intensity of your impairment when on the water,” said Gill Cochran, of Cochran, Cochran and Chhabra. “Balance is one of the first things you lose when you consume alcohol. When you combine loss of balance with the rocking of a boat, the chance of falling overboard increases. The sun causes you to perspire, which removes the water from your body but leaves the alcohol in. This can cause a quicker and higher level of impairment.”

Mr. Cochran says that every boater needs to understand the risks of operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OWI).

Here are Sobering Facts from Mr. Cochran:

  • Beer is NOT less intoxicating than any other alcoholic beverage.
  • Only time will sober a person, NOT black coffee or a cold shower.
  • It is NOT easy to tell if someone is impaired. Many experienced drinkers can hide their impairment, but the effect alcohol has on the body remains.
  • You are NOT the best person to judge if you are fit to operate a vessel. Your judgment is one of the first things you lose when you drink.
  • A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink.
  • The penalties for OWI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms? It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state.
  • The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits OWI.
  • This law pertains to ALL boats (from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships).

Enforcement and Penalties

The Coast Guard and every state have stringent penalties for violating OWI laws. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.

Tips for Avoiding an OWI

“Boating doesn’t need any stimulus to make it fun,” said Mr. Cochran. “Fishing doesn’t need any liquid bait to improve the catch.”

So here are some ideas from Mr. Cochran that will help boaters avoid a OWI:

  • Take along a variety of sodas, a jug of water, iced tea, lemonade, or take along nonalcoholic beer.
  • Take along plenty of food.
  • Wear clothes that keep you cool.
  • Plan to limit your trip to the number of hours you can spend on the water without becoming tired.
  • Enjoy your outing more by having a party ashore – in the picnic area, in the Yacht Club, in your backyard – where you will have time between the fun and getting back into your boat or your car.
  • If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol, wait a reasonable time before getting in your boat or car.
  • Be sure to have a sober designated driver as the boat operator.
  • No alcohol on board is the safe way to go – remember intoxicated passengers can fall overboard too.

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