Boating under the influence

Impaired Boating: Get the Facts

Boating and drinking alcohol is not a good mix. According to the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) Recreational Boating Statistics alcohol was the leading contributing factor in 21% of deaths in 2014.

In Washington, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in 17% of boating fatalities in the state.

Think before you drink

In Washington state, there are penalties for operating a boat under the influence (BUI). Below is an important list of things boaters need to know about BUI:

  • It is a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
  • Officers with probable cause can ask the boat operator to submit to a breathalyzer test. If the boater refuses to take the test, he or she will be issued a Class 1 Civil Infraction.
  • The maximum penalty for refusal to take a breathalyzer test is $1,000; however, RCW 3.62.090(the public safety and education assessment) adds 105% to the penalty, so the total fine could be up to $2,050.
  • The legal limit for operating under the influence of alcohol on our waterways is .08 and the legallimit for boating under the influence of marijuana is 5.0 nanograms.
  • The law applies to all boats, motorized and non-motorized, which includes, kayaks, canoes and rafts.

See BUI Fact Sheet for more additional information (PDF)

  1. Steps boaters can take
  2. BUI prevention
  3. BUI forms

Steps boaters can take to be safer

In recent years, state and local law enforcement agencies have significantly increased their efforts to remove impaired drivers from the roads, their efforts have increasingly extended to the waterways.Operating a boat impaired is a danger to the public and the rest of the people on the water.Being alcohol-free is the safest way to enjoy the water, but whenever a boating excursion involves alcohol; boaters need to make plans to have a sober skipper perate the boat.

Remember these tips prior to getting on the boat:

  • Prior to getting on the boat, designate a qualified skipper.
  • Make sure that person knows how to operate the boat being used for the day. Remember: the designated skipper must operate the vessel in a safe and prudent manner, and exercise reasonable care for his/her passengers. He/she has an obligation to keep all passengers safe.
  • For those with trailerable boats, the designated skipper should also be the designated driver of the vehicle used to tow the boat.
  • Be prepared: bring water and other non-alcoholic beverages to keep everyone on the boat hydrated and make sure passengers are wearing properly fitted life jackets.
  • Take the pledge to designate a skipper or be the sober skipper.

Boat responsibly. Stay alert. Stay sober.