Now that summer is well under way, many states – Florida among them – want to put a stop to drunk boating accidents. While Florida drunk driving accidents are a cause for concern, many people do not realize that boating while intoxicated causes some of the same dangers. Many states this year are creating initiatives to help reduce boating accidents caused by alcohol consumption.
Studies show that alcohol is the chief reason behind boating accidents. According to the US Coast Guard, there are 12.4 million registered boats in the US. In 2010, there were 330 alcohol-related boating accidents across the country, resulting in 126 deaths and 293 injuries. Florida has a special role to play in preventing boating accidents. The state has many waterways, a larger percentage of boat owners than most states, and a significant percentage of boat accidents.
Many experts point out that the comparisons between intoxicated boating and drunk driving and apt. Boats can weigh a ton or more – as much as a passenger vehicle. Unlike a car, however, boats do not travel along lanes of traffic and do not have the advantage of traffic signs and brakes. This can make it even easier for an intoxicated boater to plow into another boat or into a swimmer.
As well, boating involves some additional dangers. Boaters experience direct sunlight, the vibration of the boat, wind and noise on the open water, and the heat of the sun. These can amplify alcohol’s effects, warn experts, especially in Florida, where temperatures and sunlight can be more intense. According to boating safety coordinator, Maj. Chris Huebner, quoted in a news article, one third of the alcohol required on land to become impaired can make a boater impaired. This is due to the stress factors of boating which can intensify the effects of alcohol.
Some legislation has been proposed to fight drunk boating. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, for example, has proposed a national standard for marine field sobriety tests. If passed, the proposal would allow authorities to test boaters’ blood alcohol levels while the boaters are seated. Some states – including Oklahoma and Iowa – have lowered the legal blood alcohol level of boaters to the levels required of drivers (0.08%). Each year, authorities and police departments across the country also take part in “Operation Dry Water” to raise awareness about boating under the influence and to remove intoxicated boaters from waterways. In 2010, 12 boaters were charged with boating under the influence (BUI) during the Operation Dry Water weekend.
Make no mistake: if you have been injured in a Florida boating accident, the serious injuries could keep you out of the water and away from everyday activities for years or a lifetime. If someone chooses to drink and boat, causing an accident, you may be entitled to compensation under the law. This financial resource can be vital for you and your family as you work to pay medical bills and replace lost income related to your injury. If you have been injured in a South Florida boating accident, contact the Flaxman Law Group at our offices in Miami, Homestead, or Hollywood to arrange for a free consultation to discuss your case.