August 14, 2013
Preventing accidents on the water...
Accomplishing this through operator awareness and proper
safety equipment is one of the goals of the United States Coast
Guard. According to the Coast Guard, someone is injured or
killed in a boating accident every 2 1/2 hours.
According to the U.S.C.G., alcohol is a leading contributing
factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries, and deaths.
According to their 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics Report,
alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in nearly
17% of recreational boating deaths in 2012.
The Coast Guard continues its efforts in this area, stopping
boaters, jetski and other personal watercraft operators to
administer sobriety checks. In 2013, more than 89 vessel
operators were stopped on the Great Lakes, in connection
with enforcing boating-under-the-influence laws.
In past years, citations for BUI were as follows:
According to Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, commanding officer
of the 9th District, "Keeping the waterways safe for everyone
is a top Coast Guard priority, which is why we enforce
boating-under-the-influence laws so rigorously," The admiral
added, "BUI puts everyone on the water in danger, not just the
person who is irresponsibly drinking. Passengers who are
under the influence can drown while swimming from
anchored or adrift vessels."
Other Coast Guard officers also expresses their postions.
Commander David Beck, Chief of the 9th District Enforcement
Branch, said, "Not only is boating under the influence just as
illegal as driving under the influence, it's just as dangerous. "
He made strong point about the combination of environmental
factors on the water, adding, "The environmental
influences of the sun, vibration, waves and dehydration can
magnify the effects of consuming alcohol on the water. Coast
Guard crews on the Great Lakes have conducted
more than 10,000 recreational boating safety boardings this
season. Roughly 1% of these boardings have resulted in a BUI
citation." Currently, the Coast Guard does have a recently
approved seated sobriety test for use on the water.
Boating-under-the-influence laws are enforced at both the
state and federal level. Conviction related penalties are
generally governed by applicable state BUI laws. The
consequences of conviction can vary, depending upon location
of the incident, enforcement option exercised, particular facts
of the case at hand, history of repeat violations, and level of
negligence (or negligent operations). Civil penalties can
reach $5,000. A federal ticket can result in a class a
misdemeanor. Other consequences include insurance
premiums. For professional mariners, the consequences
are even more severe, as conviction can lead to loss of
licenses and merchant mariner credentials (MMCs)
Consequences of BUI conviction vary based on location of the
incident, enforcement option exercised, and specific facts of
each case, including repetitive violations and negligent
operations. Civil penalties can be as high as $5,000, and a
federal ticket may result in a Class A misdemeanor. Collateral
consequences of BUI conviction could include increased
insurance premiums and, for licensed mariners, revocation
and/or suspension of merchant mariner credentials. Source,
U.S.C.G. Ninth District News Release.
Aside from alcohol issues, safety equipment is a top Coast
Guard priority. According to their statistics, when an operator
or passenger wears a life jacket, the chances of drowning in a
boating accident are 1 in 66. Without a life jacket, the odds of
surviving go down to 1 in 11. The unfortunate reality is that
many scenarios result in people being thrown from the vessel,
as in a collision on the water, or losing their boat if it sinks due
to being holed or other loss of buoyancy. Naturally, other
compelling factors also enter the equation, such as a
captain's knowledge, experience, and good judgment when it
comes to navigation, seamanship, regularly monitoring the
weather, and compliance with recreational vessel safety
regulations. See causes of boating accidents.
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