Boating While Drinking Can Cause Accidents

What is Boating Under the Influence?

We’re all familiar with the dangers of drinking and driving. The warnings are everywhere – commercials, PSAs, driver’s education courses, etc. Drunk driving is a serious problem and results in thousands of injuries each year. We’re also familiar with the penalties for a DUI – loss of one’s license, jail time, and hefty fines. Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is less common and less well-known, but is a serious problem nonetheless, especially in Florida.

Florida’s BUI law is codified at Section 327.351 of the Florida Statutes, and reads:

(1) A person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is operating a vessel within this state and:

(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111,2 or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;

(b) The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or

(c) The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

You might notice that the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for BUI in Florida is the same as for DUI – 0.08%. Thus, BUI is almost identical to DUI, only that one is on land and the other is on water.

Consequences of BUI

The consequences of a BUI charge are also outlined at Section 327.35. A person who is convicted of boating under the influence shall be punished by:

A fine of

  • Not less than $500 or more than $1,000 for a first conviction
  • Not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 for a second conviction
  • Imprisonment of
  • Not more than 6 months for a first conviction
  • Not more than 9 months for a second conviction

The consequences get more serious for third and fourth offenses. These are both charged as thirddegree felonies and carry a fine of $5,000 and jail time of up to five years.

Costs of BUI

The Coast Guard estimates  3 that alcohol was the leading cause of all fatal boating accidents in 2014, accounting for a total of 21% of deaths on the water. There are several reasons why drinking while boating is so dangerous. Just like on land, alcohol affects your judgment, vision, balance, and sense of coordination, except that these effects are often magnified while boating. A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver. This is because the marine environment, including motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and spray, accelerates a drinker’s impairment. Boat operators are also often less experienced and confident on the water than they are in their cars, making them more prone to mistakes. All of these factors combined can lead to accidents causing serious injury and even death.

Contact a Florida Boating Accident Attorney