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Reminder: It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence

Did you know that alcohol is more intoxicating on the water than on land? According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the marine environment, along with sun, wind, spray, engine noise, vibration and rocking motion all contribute to accelerate impairment. They also cause fatigue, which increases the detriments to coordination, judgment and reaction time that alcohol can cause.

According to the Coast Guard, alcohol can have a variety of negative effects:

  • It can impair physical performance, creating balance problems, increased reaction time and lack of coordination.
  • It can deteriorate cognition and judgment, making it harder to process information, assess the situation and make effective choices.
  • It can affect vision, reducing depth perception, decreasing peripheral vision and night vision, reducing focus and making it harder to distinguish between colors — especially red and green.
  • It can affect the inner ear. Intoxicated people who fall overboard may not be able to distinguish up from down.
  • It can give the impression that you are warmer than you are, which may encourage people to remain in the water even as hypothermia sets in.

A boat operator with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent is an estimated 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with no alcohol in their system. Drunken operation also puts passengers at increased risk for injury and death, particularly if they have also been drinking.

For these reasons, the Coast Guard urges boaters not to drink at all. There is no safe blood-alcohol level for operators of boats. As on the road, however, the legal blood-alcohol limit in Tennessee is 0.08 percent.

In Tennessee, boating under the influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol is a serious charge. A first conviction could result in a fine of up to $2,500, a jail sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days with mandatory probation, and the loss of your boating privileges. In waters subject to federal jurisdiction, additional penalties may apply.

Being arrested for drunk boating will certainly ruin your excursion. Don’t let it ruin your life. If you’ve received a BUI citation, contact an experienced lawyer right away.

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