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Boats and booze don't mix!


Every summer we have boating accidents in Bonner County that are a result of boating under the influence. Often these accidents result in serious injury and occasionally death. Many of these accidents happen at night, and in most cases the boaters are not wearing life jackets. 

Boating under the influence of alcohol or dangerous drugs continues to plague the recreational boating community. Over 20 percent of boating related fatalities are a result of alcohol use. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications. They can slow reaction times, impair vision, reduce the ability to distinguish colors, especially red and green, and lead to boating accidents. Alcohol also causes dehydration. Research has proven that one-third of the amount of alcohol that it takes to make a person legally intoxicated on land will make a boater equally intoxicated on the water. Statistics for 2007 show 145 fatalities, over 340 injuries and nearly 400 boating accidents all alcohol related. These statistics represent much more than random numbers. Each one represents some event of human tragedy. Whether it was the loss of a loved one or a friend, the result is the same, another preventable loss. 

Idaho law prohibits anyone from operating or being in actual physical control of any vessel while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances. A person 21 years of age or older is to be considered to be “under the influence” if he or she has a blood concentration of 0.08 percent or higher or he or she is under the age of 21 and has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or higher. By operating a vessel on Idaho waters, you have consented to be tested for the presence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances. Those found guilty of boating under the influence may be fined not to exceed $1,000 and imprisoned for a period not to exceed six months. Furthermore, if convicted of aggravated operating under the influence (causing great bodily harm or permanent disability to another person) shall be sentenced to prison for a period not to exceed five years and fined not more than $5,000.

Always designate non-drinking boaters to operate the vessel and to act as an observer if your group plans to consume alcohol. Since many of those killed or injured in the alcohol related boating accidents are passengers, never allow your skipper to operate the boat if he or she is drinking. Above all, remember: booze and boats don’t mix.

Happy and Safe Boating!


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Author info

Cary Kelly Cary Kelly Cary Kelly is a Lieutenant with the Bonner County Sheriff's Office Marine Deputy division

Tagged as:

outdoors, boating, Lake Pend Oreille, alcohol

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