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Don't let alcohol crash America's birthday celebration on the water

by Scott Croft 30 Jun 15:43 PDT
It's best to save the alcohol for the party ashore. © U.S. Coast Guard

More recreational boaters than ever are expected to hit the water over Fourth of July weekend, and for some it will be their first spent aboard a boat during this uniquely American holiday.

While many vessels will have alcoholic beverages aboard, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers two reasons why it may be best to save those drinks until everyone is safely ashore.

  1. Why risk it? An increased presence of law enforcement officers is expected on the water as part of Operation Dry Water. Operating a boat with blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 or greater could earn you a large fine, jail time, possible loss of driving and boating privileges and, depending on the state, may be a misdemeanor or felony conviction. If you are in an accident, any level of intoxication can lead to a charge.

  2. Know the stressors. Being out all day on the water with the sun, wind, waves and heat stresses the body making you feel tired and slow to react. Adding alcohol amplifies these effects on the body. Boat operators also have the responsibility to keep everyone aboard safe, and wobbly passengers are more at risk for getting injured or falling overboard. In fact, passengers are far more at risk of injury if they have been drinking, so having a designated driver may not help.

The Foundation suggests taking along a variety of non-alcoholic drinks and water, and plenty of food and snacks. Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool. Plan to limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue. If you want to make alcohol part of your day's entertainment, plan to have a party ashore at the dock, beach, boat club or in your own backyard.

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