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Boating and alcohol: a bad combination

Because boating is typically seen as a recreational activity, New Yorkers may assume that the laws concerning alcohol behind the wheel of a boat are not as stringent as those restricting car drivers. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, though, boating under the influence can be just as deadly as driving while impaired. About 16 percent of all boating deaths are alcohol-related.

The absence of obvious lanes and objects to run into can add to the impression that it is safe to be out on the water after a few drinks. Navigating boat and shipping traffic, waves, shoreline and submerged hazards requires a clear head, though. There is a ten times greater chance that boat operators will die in an accident if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent or more.

According to the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation department, there are a number of factors that increase a person’s impairment when intoxicated on the water, such as engine noise and vibration, and the heat and glare from the sun. Two functions that are essential on a boat, balance and coordination, are compromised by even a small amount of alcohol, as is judgment. Tracking moving objects becomes more difficult when a person cannot accurately estimate distance and speed, putting everyone out on the water at risk. In the event of an accident, people who have been drinking are more likely to drown.

For all these reasons, New York state laws treat violations seriously. A person may lose the privilege of operating a boat, and may also face jail time and fines.

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