Not everyone has unfettered ocean access quite like Bay Staters do. With its roots in fishing, whaling and crabbing our state has a rich history on the water. But, with access and tradition come responsibility and care. All states have laws that criminalize drinking and driving. Likewise, all states and the federal government have laws that prohibit Boating Under the Influence (BUI).
As coastal residents, we have the duty to understand BUI laws to keep ourselves and others safe on the water. You can be apprehended for BUI by state or federal authorities while on the water. Just like driving under the influence, a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 can result in charges of BUI. First time BUI offenders in the state of Massachusetts can face criminal penalties up to a $1,000 fine and 30 months in prison.
Administrative penalties include up to one-year license revocation and a one-year boat certificate revocation. Both criminal and administrative penalties increase with multiple offenses or aggravating circumstances. Refusal of a breathalyzer while operating a boat can affect your motor vehicle driving privileges as well.
BUI is punished similarly to DUI, but the safety risks are higher.
Alcohol is more dangerous on the water than on land, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Operating a watercraft while under the influence increases the incidents of boating fatalities by 34 percent. The consumption of alcohol while boating is considered dangerous because you are subject to the unpredictable elements of the ocean. Exposure to wind, sun, ocean glare and the motion of the watercraft can result in "boater's fatigue." Alcohol can compound the effects of boater's fatigue.
Your ability to respond to an emergency could also be impaired while boating under the influence. This factor is especially important on holidays when more people are using the water for recreational purposes. Even if you are not consuming alcohol, ensure that everyone on the boat wears a life jacket.
Because the ocean is unpredictable, preparation is important to safety. You should plan to have a sober boat operator before hitting the water. Without the proper foresight, a boating accident could quickly become fatal. Your knowledge of safety and the law surrounding BUI will ensure that you and your passengers steer away from trouble on the water.