How To Navigate Changing BUI Laws

Last year on an idyllic summer afternoon, 2 young brothers joined their family for a cruise in their red pontoon boat on Lake Lanier just outside of Atlanta. Hours later another boat slammed into theirs and the 2 boys were killed. The operator of the other boat was intoxicated. This year Georgia enacted a new BUI [boating under the influence] law in honor of the 2 boys, Jake and Griffin Prince. The new law lowers the legal blood alcohol content [BAC] level for boaters to that set for drivers, 0.08 BAC.

BUI is just as dangerous as OUI, or operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and is illegal in all fifty states. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that almost 60 percent of all boating accidents are related to drinking and boating, and that nearly 90 percent of all fatal boating accidents are a result of the same.

Each state recognizes BUI as a crime and has a specific set of laws to handle it. But conventional wisdom might assume that BUI is more innocuous than OUI, and that the penalties would be less severe. But the fact is that boating under the influence may actually be more dangerous than operating a car under the influence.


BUI can impair your peripheral and night vision, your cognitive abilities, judgment, balance, focus, and coordination. The bottom line is that when you combine drinking and boating, you are actually making yourself more susceptible to the effects of the alcohol and placing yourself in danger. For those of you living or boating on the eastern shore who find themselves in need of a good BUI attorney, the services of Jack Diamond’s law firm will put you in good stead.

The body’s reaction to being on the water is markedly different than when it is on land. The sun, the breeze, the water spray—all can lull a person into a state of deep relaxation. Additionally, a person’s equilibrium adjusts itself to the motion of the water, and reaction time may be impaired even in someone who is not under the influence. Then, too, boating is a season recreational activity, and most boat operators don’t have as much experience steering a boat as they do driving a car.

It is estimated that a total of 60,000 boating accidents occur each year. From 1961—when the Coast Guard began to keep records on boating accidents—to 1992, 800 people died. That’s more than the number of fatalities from plane and train accidents for the same period. The Coast Guard also reports that in boating deaths where alcohol is involved, more than half the victims capsized or fell overboard.

Tips To Avoid A BUI Charge

Since a BUI charge can have as huge an impact on your life as a charge for driving under the influence, it is important to take the necessary steps to avoid being arrested for this type of behavior. The following tips may help you avoid being arrested for boating under the influence.

• Set A Limit

If you know in advance that you’re going to drink while out on the water, limit the amount of alcohol you take onboard. You don’t exactly have to plan to stay sober. The goal is just to plan not to get too drunk. Take enough alcohol with you to have a good time without winding up in jail or worse. Fortunately when you are out on the water, it will be impossible to have “just one more” if one more is not accessible.

• Stay Anchored

Before launching off, if you have had more than two drinks in a short period of time, stay anchored and let the effects of the alcohol wear off. You must remember that the motion of the water may make your ability to react much slower, especially when you’ve been drinking.

• Have A Co-Pilot

If you are going to drink while on your boat, make sure that you bring someone along who is willing to remain sober and who can operate the boat safely. Designated drivers apply to boats as well as cars.

• Refrain From Hard Liquors

It takes much less hard liquor to impact on your system than wine or beer, and it is much easier to consume in large quantities. Stick with lighter potables or chose those with less alcohol.

• Know Local Laws

One of the most important things that you can do before you decide to drink on your boat is to know the local laws about drinking and boating. Some areas consider open containers in a boat against the law, and you can be charged with a violation of this ordinance, even if you are not legally intoxicated. Other areas have stricter laws concerning BUI because of the extra danger associated with boating accidents.

The safest thing you can do, however, is to refrain from drinking while you are out on your boat. The added potential for drowning should make everyone think twice before they decide to boat and drink.