Cinco de Mayo Boaters Ignore BUI Laws

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cinco de Mayo can be a fun holiday if celebrated responsibly. The Mexican independence day is celebrated all over the world, but like many holidays, is known for the number of people who drink excessively. As dangerous as it can be to drink and drive on land, it can be even more dangerous to drink while out at sea. Unfortunately though, not everyone understands the extent of the dangers of boating under the influence.

For some people, drunk driving laws only apply on land. They may follow every law regarding operating their cars sober, but once they hit the open waters, safety is thrown overboard. Alcohol can affect a boater much more so than a driver due to several factors. The sheer movement of a boat compared to the higher stability of a car adds to the pilot’s impairment level, along with the outdoor heat, motion of the waves and other environmental factors. Unfortunately, because boaters think they have more space to operate their vessels at sea and because not all states have strict BUI laws in place, it is much easier to become injured on a boat because of alcohol consumption.

The Coast Guard and other maritime organizations are on overdrive this week to help prevent boating accidents because of the holiday, but yet, it never fails that someone becomes injured or is killed throughout the Cinco de Mayo holiday week because of careless intoxicated boating. New laws are being enacted to protect boaters and other water-lovers this summer, but unless safety education is increased, the laws might as well be irrelevant.

A few weeks ago, our boating accident lawyers reported on an important development in the maritime world that has the potential to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities at sea. Georgia’s governor Nathan Deal signed a bill into law that would severely reduce the number of accidents in the open waters. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to get the ball rolling when it comes to safety measures.

The death of 11-year-old Kile Glover last year, stepson of R&B singer Usher, opened a lot of eyes to the dangers water activities can bring and the dire need to improve laws protecting boaters from harm. Glover was fatally injured on Lake Lanier after a family friend who was operating a jet ski crashed into an inner tube Kile and a friend of his were floating in.

This terrible accident led state legislators to introduce a bill that would improve boating safety in the state, and after hearing various testimonies, including one from Glover’s mother, Tameka Raymond, the boating safety law was passed and is expected to go into effect this month, just in time for boating season. Among several provisions, the bill will lower the legal blood alcohol concentration threshold for boaters from 0.10 to 0.08 percent – the same limit for car drivers to get a DUI, require lifejacket use for boaters under the age of 13, as well as mandate boaters renting a personal watercraft to undergo a safety briefing.

However, this is just one law in one state.

There’s still a long way to go before personal watercraft safety will be strictly upheld and those who disregard laws will be held fully accountable for their actions. Boats, no matter how small the vessel, can be extremely dangerous even for experienced operators, so it’s important to stay aware of other people’s actions while in the open waters and lookout for signs of intoxicated pilots. The more educated a boater is, the less likely an accident will occur.

In fact, according to Coast Guard statistics, of the 758 boating accident deaths reported in 2011, only 11 percent occurred on vessels that were piloted by operators who had received boating safety instruction and just 7 percent of the fatalities occurred on vessels where the operator had been educated in boating safety by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

Our boating accident lawyers remind everyone that even the safest and most careful pilots can be hurt at sea because of another operator’s negligence and to always uphold the highest safety protocols to keep parties safe from harm.