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Under the influence and boating

People tend to view driving under the influence as something that happens when a person is driving a car, motorcycle or truck. However, DUIs can happen when driving any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That includes boats and other watercraft. If you spend time on the water this upcoming Labor Day weekend, there are key things about boating under the influence that you should know.

A DUI while boating is called Boating under the Influence. There are federal laws against it that empower law enforcement officials to stop watercraft and confirm that their drivers are in control of their facilities. There are also state BUI laws that vary from one state to another. These laws were enacted in direct response to unfortunate statistics about boating incidents.

One is that alcohol is the number one factor in boat accidents that involve a fatality. Another is that 50 percent of boating accidents are due to a driver being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Coast Guard reports that BUI's increase fatal boating accidents by about 34 percent.

The Coast Guard also states that alcohol is particularly hazardous for drivers of watercraft. That is why regulations have been put in place to minimize the chances of an intoxicated person driving a watercraft.

Many things can adversely affect a person's ability to drive watercraft successfully. Collectively, those things contribute to what is called "boater's fatigue". They include dealing with challenges like noise, glare, sun, heat and the motion of the boat. Alcohol compounds the effects of these things and can make driving watercraft very dangerous. If you are involved in a BUI, it will be critical to know your responsibilities.

Source: FindLaw, "Boating Under the Influence Basics," accessed Aug. 25, 2015

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