Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers and Indiana State Police are increasing patrols for impaired drivers and boat operators this 4th of July weekend and they have an important message:

Drunk boating becomes drunk driving.

Indiana authorities will be participating in Operation Dry Water - "a boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign." Fourth of July weekend is known to be a weekend associated for many with drinking and boating. July 2 - July 4, 2021, there will be heightened enforcement of the boating under the influence laws all across the country.

Alcohol is the #1 Contributor to Fatal Boating Accidents

The number one contributing factor to fatal boating accidents is alcohol, according to OperationDryWater.com. In fact, in all 50 states, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence but that doesn't just mean alcohol. It also includes controlled substances and other drugs.

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Boating under the influence can result in the operator being arrested and the boat being impounded. While individual states have their own laws regarding the penalties for boating under the influence, Operation Dry Water warns,

  •  The federal BAC legal limit for operating a vessel under the influence is .08
  • Alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time
  • Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion —“stressors” common to the boating environment— intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications
  • Alcohol use can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.

In addition to the risk of arrest for the operator and impoundment of the boat, using alcohol as a passenger is also dangerous as it impairs motor skills and coordination, causing dangerous situations and accidents.

Indiana BUI Laws and Penalties

When it comes to boating under the influence in the state of Indiana, it's defined as,

having a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or greater, or being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs such that a person’s thoughts and actions are impaired and he or she has a loss of normal control of faculties to such an extent as to cause danger to others. You may also be arrested if your blood alcohol level is less than 0.08% but over 0.05%.

If convicted, it is a Class C Misdemeanor in the state of Indiana. For a first offense or the first in the last ten years, driving privileges for both boat and motor vehicle could be suspended for a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of two years. A second conviction within five years of the first can result in fines, jail, and even license suspension for watercraft and motor vehicles for a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of two years. Additional convictions may result in more severe penalties. However, if you are boating under the influence and cause death or serious injury to someone else, and you are convicted, it is a felony offense.

Kentucky BUI Laws

In Kentucky, the boating laws say,

  • Those convicted of boating while intoxicated or under the influence of any substance that impairs his or her driving ability will be subject to a fine of $200 to $250 upon a first conviction.
  • Upon a second conviction, the person will be subject to a fine of $350 to $500.
  • Upon a third or subsequent conviction, a person will be subject to a fine of $600 to $1,000, or imprisonment for at least 30 days, or both a fine and jail time.

State Troopers Will Be Increasing Patrols Too

In addition to Indiana Conservation Officers keeping our waterways safe by participating in Operation Dry Water, Indiana State Troopers will be increasing patrols as part of their Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) and their Driving Under the Influence Enforcement Project. The increased patrols will focus on both distracted and impaired drivers. Over the 4-day, Fourth of July weekend in 2020, Indiana State Troopers report that there we more than 2300 motor vehicle accidents resulting 13 deaths and more than 400 injuries.

If you get behind the wheel of a boat - or a motor vehicle - you are putting more than just yourself at risk. You are risking the lives of your passengers and other boaters and motorists. It just isn't worth it. This Fourth of July weekend, if you're going to drink, give the keys to someone else.

[Source: OperationDryWater.org; USPS.org; Boat-Ed.com; Indiana State Police]

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