The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and TEAM Georgia, a safe and sober driving and boating coalition, are reminding people to refrain from or limit drinking alcohol while operating boats.
“Alcohol, mixed with boating activities, can create dangerous conditions that can lead not only to an arrest, but also to tragedy so we want to emphasize responsibility and safety, especially during the increased traffic expected on holiday weekends,” says Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant chief of DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Boaters also need to be aware that the legal limit for boating under the influence has changed from 0.10 to 0.08, equalizing boating legal limits to driving legal limits.”
The marine environment, such as waves, engine noise, water, sun and wind, accelerates impairment and fatigue in recreational boaters. This can quickly become a hazardous situation when such fatigue is combined with the effects of alcohol.
“It is not illegal to have alcohol in an open container on a boat, nor is it illegal for a person operating a boat to drink, provided they are no less safe,” says Weaver. “However, if a person is over the age of 21 and has a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, they are presumed to be less safe and may be charged with boating under the influence.”
People arrested for BUI may lose their privilege to operate a boat. These privileges are not reinstated until the successful completion of an approved Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program. The offender will be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable with up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 12 months in prison.
“Operating a boat is as complicated as driving a car, and a boating incident is as dangerous as an automobile accident,” says Ron Fennel, chairman of TEAM Georgia. “However, many people who would never drive a car intoxicated think it is okay to operate their boat after drinking. Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal and hazardous to themselves and others on the water.”
To help emphasize safe driving and boating, TEAM Georgia will reward those who register as a designated sober operator with a chance to win prizes. To register online, visit www.teamgeorgia.net .
For more information, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety . Several new videos have been created on recent and upcoming boating-related changes in Georgia, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/new-boating-regulations-2013 to view.