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BUI: Intoxication could come faster on water than on land

South Carolina's statutes for driving under the influence of alcohol and boating under the influence are fairly similar, at least in terms of the law. For each statute, motor vehicle or boat operators are subject to the same legal limit for intoxication, which is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent.

Certainly, the laws have obvious differences in application. Namely, DUI laws apply to land-based vehicles and BUI laws apply to watercraft. On the other hand, reaching the point of legally defined intoxication might be different for those on land versus those on the water. In other words, a person may not be able to accurately judge his or her level of sobriety when operating a boat.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, people are susceptible to becoming intoxicated at a more rapid rate on the water in comparison to those consuming alcohol on dry land. Although a wide variety of variables can affect how quickly someone becomes impaired, the Coast Guard lays out a few unique aspects of being on a boat can accelerate intoxication:

  • The motion of a boat being jostled by waves.
  • Vibrations and noise from the boat's motor.
  • Heat from the sun, causing a person to become dehydrated faster.
  • The presence of wind.
  • Spray from marine water.

Of course, the factors that affect levels of intoxication can vary from person to person and day to day. As such, this post is designed to bring awareness to some environmental factors unique or commonly present during boating that could cause a person to inaccurately assess his or her ability to operate a boat. With this in mind, it's understandable how people who aren't familiar with operating a boat could wind up facing BUI charges, even if they try to be responsible.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard, "Boating Under the Influence Initiative," accessed June 6, 2014

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