Drunk boating happening less but still a problem

A new report from The Associated Press out this week detailing the latest on a long-term problem on the Great Lakes is an exercise in good news-bad news.

AP reports that while drunken boating – operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol – remains a problem, fewer people are being arrested for the crime.

According to AP, U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed on the five lakes had issued 89 citations for drunken boating this year through Aug. 13, said Lt. Davey Connor, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 9th District office in Cleveland. That’s up from 84 during the same period a year ago but still an improvement from 2005, when the number had reached 262 by the same date, AP reported. The Coast Guard noted that alcohol is the single largest cause of fatal boating accidents.

The Coast Guard says that while it isn’t illegal to drink while boating, it’s very illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. It’s worth noting that the.08 threshold which applies to intoxication while operating a motor vehicle also applies to operating a boat.

Here’s something AP noted that many – perhaps most – boaters don’t know: A boat’s rocking motion, engine vibration and noise – along with sun and wind – can intensify the effects of alcohol. A boat operator probably will become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver after consuming the same amount.

AP stated the Coast Guard doesn’t set up checkpoints as law enforcement agencies sometimes do on roads but officers look for signs of intoxicated pilots during routine inspections, when they check vessels to make sure they have equipment such as life jackets and seasonal flares. They also spot vessels operating erratically and receive tips from other boaters. Coast Guard personnel have conducted 10,200 recreational vessel boardings in the Great Lakes this season, a typical number.

So if you’re a boat operator, be smart – and safe. And don’t drink and boat.