Boating While Under the Influence
Over the Limit or Okay to Drive?
Now that summer is in full swing, Crime Stoppers of Northwest Ontario would like to remind boaters about the risks of drinking and boating.
Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and is illegal in every state across the U.S.A. (BOATsmart! and MADD). Penalties can includes large fines, suspension and/or revocation of boating and/or drivers license, and jail time. In some areas, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence are treated the same as drinking and driving a motor vehicle (U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Division). Although these penalties vary between provinces and territories in Canada and states in the U.S.A., the message is the same – a boat is still a vehicle and operating it under the influence is illegal and dangerous to yourself and those around you.
Also keep in mind that these laws also apply to other types of watercraft including jet skis, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. If youre unsure about the regulations in your area, contact your local law enforcement for more information.
Effects of Alcohol While Boating
Alcohol impairs judgement, effects your balance, coordination, vision and reaction time – increasing the risk of accidents occurring on the water.
Alcohol is a factor in almost 40% of boating incidents and many people do not understand that there are stressors, such as noise, sun/wind exposure, waves and rocking of the boat that can greatly increase the effects of alcohol and threaten the safety of boat operators and passengers while on the water. All of these factors make boating while drinking just as dangerous as drinking and driving a motor vehicle (Canadian Safe Boating Council).
Carrying Alcohol on Your Boat
In Canada, passengers can legally drink alcohol on a boat as long as it is equipped with permanent sleeping facilities, permanent cooking facilities, permanent toilet and it is anchored or secured alongside a dock. Not all boat types meet these requirements therefore before any passenger consumes alcohol on your boat it is your responsibility as the operator to make sure your boat meets these requirements. Provinces and territories have their own rules for when you can drink and how you can carry alcohol on board – contact your local law enforcement for more information (BOATsmart!).
As the operator, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers and for making the waterways safe for others. Stay sober and make sure everyone arrives home safely.
Stay Safe While Out on the Water This Summer
Follow some of these tips while youre out on your boat to avoid boating and driving:
Pack a selection of non-alcholic drinks like water, juice, soft drinks and iced tea along with lots of food and snack.
Its going to get hot out there – bring clothing that will keep you and your passengers cool.
Plan your trip so that you can avoid getting tired. Stressors like sun and wind exposure can tire you out more quickly while out on the water.
If you stop somewhere and drink alcohol with your meal, wait a reasonable time (estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink) before heading back out on your boat.
Not carrying any alcohol at all on your boat is the safest solution. Even passengers that have consumed alcohol are at risk of getting hurt while on your boat.
Get this message out to as many boaters as possible. A boat is a vehicle and as the operator, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers and for making the waterways safe for others.
- Transport Canada – “Safe Boating Guide”
- MADD – “Boating While Intoxicated”
- Canadian Safe Boating Council – “Operation Dry Water”
- Boat U.S. Foundation – “Alcohol and Boating”
- U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Division – “BUI Initiatives”
- BOATsmart! – “KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT DRINKING AND BOATING IN CANADA!”