The dangers associated with boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol are very serious and far-reaching. Drugs and alcohol impair a person’s ability to operate a boat and should never be consumed prior to or during operation.
Alcohol is classified as a depressant because it slows down the functions of the central nervous system. This means that normal brain activity becomes delayed, and a person is unable to function normally. It affects a person’s information-processing skills, also known as cognitive skills, and hand-eye coordination, known as psychomotor skills.
When a person consumes alcohol, it affects his or her cognitive abilities and judgment. This means that it is difficult to process information, assess situations, and make proper decisions, all of which are of the utmost importance when operating a boat.
Alcohol also reduces the quality of a person’s physical performance, which causes a lack of balance and coordination and leads to a decreased reaction time. Nearly all aspects of a person’s vision are also impaired. An individual with an elevated blood alcohol concentration level experiences decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, decreased night vision, poor focus, and difficulty in distinguishing colors, specifically red and green.
Alcohol affects the body in many ways that make boating particularly dangerous under its influence. Boat operators that have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.10% or above are an estimated ten times more likely to die in a boating accident than a sober boater.
Alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth that can make a person more susceptible to hypothermia. If a boater falls into cold water due to alcohol usage, which is very common, the sensation of warmth may prevent a person from getting out quickly enough preventing hypothermia. Additionally, because alcohol decreases a person’s judgment and coordination, a person who falls overboard is more likely to drown than a person who is sober.
Boating and drinking can cause a disturbance in the inner ear, which makes it impossible for a man overboard to distinguish up from down, again putting him or her at a greater risk of death or injury.
Boats are naturally more difficult to steer and brake than cars. Moreover, boaters’ abilities to steer a vessel are more likely to be influenced by alcohol because they are generally less experienced and less confident on the water than on a highway. Recreational boaters do not operate a boat everyday, whereas in the United States many people use their automobiles on a daily basis.
All of these factors, when combined with the motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray experienced while boating, accelerate and increase a drinker’s impairment and can have deadly consequences.