The FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) released its 2017 boating statistics in June 2018. The statistics showed that Florida had 766 boating accidents with 67 deaths. Lee County and Collier County each had 43 and 31 accidents respectively. In a press release Lt. Seth Wagner of FWC said, “For 2017, the leading contributor to boating accidents was the operator’s inattention or failure to maintain a proper lookout. It is critical for operators to be diligent in observing and being aware of what is going on around them.”
Alcohol consumption plays a major role in whether an operator is attentive, or not. Florida Statute Section 327.35 says that a BUI (boating under the influence) arrest can occur when either your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher, or the law enforcement officer suspects that your normal faculties are impaired due to intoxication or drug impairment. The FWC says that “anyone suspected of boating under the influence must submit to a sobriety test and a physical or chemical test to determine blood- or breath-alcohol content.”
Florida Today reported that July is one of the busiest months for Florida boating collisions. 113 were reported last year. This is more than any other month of the year. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office reported two such BUI arrests:
- A boater who was stopped on the Indian River by an FWC officer for a safety inspection was charged after failing sobriety exercises.
- Another boater, a 31 year old from Melbourne, was stopped at the west end of the Barge Canal. He was charged after failing sobriety exercises.
Attorney Randall Spivey said, “In order to help prevent BUI boating accidents, injuries and deaths, we at Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. would like to share with you ‘6 Common Lies About Alcohol and Boating’ which comes from the Coast Guard Compass, the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard.”
- Drinking alcohol while operating a boat is not a big deal; it is not as dangerous as drinking and driving a car.
When operating a boat there are more variables to consider than when driving a car. How deep is the water? Are there submerged dangers like rocks or trees? How big are the waves? What direction are the waves coming from? Waterways are not marked by lanes, signs and street lights the same way that roads are, and most boats do not have headlights. The intensity of side effects from alcohol, drugs and some medications increase when a person is exposed to the sun, wind, rain, noise, vibration and motion.
- Boats are ‘toys’ meantfor partying out on the water.
Many people associate boats with parties and parties with alcohol. Pleasure craft are intended for recreation, but they are not toys. It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all those on board. “A boat full of drunk people is dangerous, even if the boat’s driver has had nothing to drink.”
- Penalties for drinking and boating are pretty lenient, and it is hard to get caught.
Operators found to be boating under the influence can expect to incur severe penalties. The voyage may be terminated; the boat may be impounded, and the operator may be arrested. Penalties vary by state but can include fines, jail, loss of boating privileges and even loss of driving privileges.
- You are okay to drink and operate a vessel as long as it is not powered by a motor.
Wrong. You can get a BUI for paddling a canoe while under the influence. BUI laws pertain to all vessels, from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships. Passing out and drifting into a shipping lane or into the path of a ski boat does not fall under most people’s definition of “recreation.” Impairment on the water, even in kayaks and small sailing vessels, leads to accidents.
- BUI means boating under the influence of alcohol; you cannot get in trouble for boating after smoking pot.
False. BUI means boating under the influence of any intoxicant, including both legal and illegal drugs. You can get a BUI while under the influence of a prescribed medication if it is determined that the medication caused operator impairment.
- Going for a swim from an anchored boat after a few drinks is a good idea.
When you’re out on the water on a beautiful summer day, and have downed a few drinks in the sun, going for a swim off the back of a boat may seem like a great idea. The hidden dangers are even less apparent to a person who is intoxicated. Currents are often difficult to predict until you are getting swept away by one. If you end up further away from the boat than you planned, hypothermia could potentially occur. Additionally, alcohol distorts your perception of risk and your own abilities. With less accurate information pouring into the brain, you are not as equipped to make the right decisions. Jumping from a moving boat, pushing others from the boat, swimming near an engaged propeller, swimming too far or in unsafe locations are all common behaviors that can occur when swimmers consume alcohol.
“If you or a loved one is injured because of a negligent boater, please contact our experienced legal team. We are available 24/7 to assist you,” said Attorney Spivey, Naples Boating Accident Attorney.
Naples Boating Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.