News Release 13-038
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
1111 Israel Road S.W., P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650, (360) 902-8500
Don Hoch, Director
Wade Alonzo, (360) 902-8836, Wade.firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynn Satre, (360) 902-8837, Lynn.email@example.com
Wash. Telecommunications Relay Service: (800) 833-6388
Starting July 28: Stiffer penalties
for operating a boat while under the influence
July 23, 2013 –
People who operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI) will face stiffer penalties starting July 28, because of a new law recently adopted by the Washington State Legislature.
Boating is a favorite sport in Washington, and alcohol is a leading factor in boating fatalities. The new law is intended to make the sport safer. According to the Washington State Parks Boating Program, between 2005 and 2011, there were 157 boating deaths on Washington waters. Alcohol is a factor in 30 percent of boating deaths.
The new “boating under the influence” law, RCW 79A.60.040, designates a BUI conviction as a gross misdemeanor; sets legal limits for marijuana use while operating a boat; and provides greater incentive for boat operators to submit to a breathalyzer test in situations where an officer has probable cause for BUI. Previously, a BUI conviction was a misdemeanor.
Penalty changes effective July 28 include the following:
• A conviction for operating a boat while under the influence (BUI) will be punishable with a fine of up to $5,000 and/or 364 days in jail, as a gross misdemeanor.
• A boat operator who refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test when requested by an officer with probable cause for BUI could be fined a maximum of $2,050, as a Class 1 Civil Infraction.
• The legal limit for boating under the influence of marijuana is set at 5.0 nanograms, consistent with Initiative 502, which made recreational use of marijuana legal this year.
• The BUI law applies specifically to the operators of motorized and non-motorized boats and does not prohibit alcohol consumption by others on the vessel. The legal limit of blood alcohol for boat operators is .08 percent, the same as for motorists on the highways.
Other changes in the law include:
• Clarifying boat rental laws - RCW 79A.60: Rentals, like all other boats, are required to be outfitted with the minimum legally required safety equipment, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers and signaling devices. Senate Bill 5437 clarified that boat rental companies must supply the required safety equipment and may not charge renters for that equipment.
• Authority to cite for boat accidents - RCW 10.31.100: The most common type of boating accident in Washington State is collision with another vessel or a fixed object. The most common reason cited in these accidents is operator inattention or a related violation of the boating “rules of the road.” The law now allows the officer investigating a boating accident to issue a citation to the boater deemed at fault even if the officer did not witness the accident – as officers of the law currently may do in investigating vehicle accidents.
The Washington State Parks Boating Safety Program is a leader in boating safety and environmental education and outreach, with the purpose of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of Washington waterways and keeping recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime.
To find out more details about the law, visit www.parks.wa.gov/whatsnew/. For more information on other boating regulations in Washington, visit www.boat.wa.gov.
Stay connected to your state parks by following Washington State Parks at www.facebook.com/WashingtonStateParks, www.twitter.com/WAStatePks, www.youtube.com/WashingtonStateParks and www.foursquare.com/WAStatePks. Share your favorite state park adventure on the State Parks’ blog site at www.AdventureAwaits.com.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages a diverse system of more than 100 state parks and recreation programs, including long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. Washington State Parks turned 100 years old on March 19, 2013, and is celebrating with events in parks all over the state, all year long. For more information, visit www.parks.wa.gov/events/.
Support state parks by purchasing your annual Discover Pass today, and enjoy a whole year of outdoor fun on Washington’s beautiful state-managed recreation lands. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov.