What Are the Dangers of Boating While Drinking?

While many people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, they may not be as conscious of the dangers of boating while drinking. This activity can be even more dangerous than drinking and driving and can result in serious or fatal accidents.

Seriousness of Drinking-Related Boating

According to the United States Coast Guard, 16 percent of boating fatalities are caused by alcohol. Like with driving, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more is illegal. Boat operators can be arrested and their vessel can be impounded. Like with drinking and driving, boat operators can be jailed and required to pay stiff fines.

Additionally, they may lose their boating privileges and driving privileges. Operating a boat can be more difficult than driving a car due to the lack of lanes, signs and other indicators on the waterway. The operator must also consider other factors, such as the depth of the water or strength of the current.

The dangers of boating while drinking are not only present in motorized vehicles. However, smaller boating vessels like canoes or kayaks can flip over by un unbalanced operator. The United States Coast Guard reports that approximately 80 percent of boaters who drown did so in a vessel that was less than 21 feet long.


Alcohol may impair boat operators in the following ways:

  • Loss of balance – Alcohol can impact a person’s balance, which may cause him or her to accidentally fall overboard.
  • Slowed reaction times – Alcohol is a depressant which causes slowed reaction times. All senses are impaired, resulting in the brain receiving messages from your eyes and ears more slowly. Vision can be impaired to the point that the operator cannot tell the difference between the red or green lights.
  • Impaired judgment – Drinking alcohol can impair your judgment. This can lead to otherwise safe operators taking unexpected risks, such as speeding or trying stunts.

Drinking while boating is particularly unsafe because of the additional variables involved. A person’s impairment can be amplified with environmental factors, such as vibration, sunlight, wind, noise, and the motion of water. This is unique to boating operators because they are exposed to the elements. Alcohol intensifies the effects of these variables, often resulting in an increased likelihood of being involved in an accident.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured in a boating accident and believe that alcohol was a contributing factor, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney to protect your legal interests. For more than 50 years, Udall Shumway has represented accident victims and helped pursue maximum recovery for their claims.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Boating While Drinking, or other personal injury matters, call 480.461.5300. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.