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By Wayne Spivak, ADSO-CS 1SR
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
“Alcohol involvement in reported accidents accounted for 31 percent of all boating fatalities (page 31) – up five (5) percent from 1999. A Coast Guard study estimates that boat operators with a blood alcohol concentration above 10 percent are estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to be killed in a boating accident than boat operators with zero blood alcohol concentration.” – this according to the USCG 2000 Boating Statistics.
Sobering thoughts you would think? But, in many areas of the country, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Drinking and boating has been a way of life, ever since yachting and sailing became the pastime of the rich and famous. So too was drinking and driving, but we as a society have gotten “MADD’, and put some brakes on this rage, if not the acceptability of the concept.
According to Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers (www.madd.org), “Alcohol-related traffic deaths are on the rise and underage drinking levels have reached a plateau.” MADD was established by a group of women in California outraged after the death of a teenage girl killed by a repeat-offender drunk driver.
We, as a sport, need to get as ‘MADD’ as drivers have, and become “BADD’ in order to promote safe boating without alcohol. Why “BADD’? The Auxiliary and the Coast Guard are for Boaters Against Drunk Driving, which is why Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) laws have begun to find their way into many state laws.
More and more, local and state governments and the Coast Guard have begun to enforce BWI laws, and MADD themselves have begun campaigns in several areas. One such success story comes from Illinois. In 1998, MADD placed 17 banners in Illinois inland lake areas “No OUI Deaths.” The year before the program started, 11 such deaths were reported.
In many states, local authorities have tied a conviction for BWI to your driving record. This means that regardless of whether you’re driving a water-borne vehicle or a land-based one, the insurance industry will surcharge you for a conviction. Those who know people or have been previously convicted of this crime know that their insurance rates go into the stratosphere.
Some examples of law enforcement and/or laws are:
So, how do you enjoy your time on the water, and still preserve the option to enjoy an alcoholic beverage? That’s easy. Use the same common sense you use when you are on land. If you want to indulge in alcoholic beverages, a) designate a non-drinking pilot, b) settle in for the night, and don’t move the boat (but be careful not to fall overboard) or better yet, c) wait until you get home.
We, in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, want you to enjoy SAFE boating. And safety begins with being sober, having a properly equipped boat (if you’re not sure if your boat has all the equipment, ask for our free Vessel Safety Check [VSC]) and a properly trained skipper and crew.
For further training, a VSC, or more information, contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla or Coast Guard Station. You can also find us on the web athttp://www.uscg.mil/default.asp (Coast Guard) or www.cgaux.org (Auxiliary).
As Bob Dylan said, “For the times they are a-changin’.” From Alaska to New York, Florida to Tennessee, state by state, locality by locality, BWI has become one of “the” boating issues. Get caught drinking, and your pleasant day on the water will turn into months and months of heartache. Have a SAFE and SOBER boating season!