During the summer months, the lake is a popular destination for anyone looking to beat the heat, to kick back to enjoy the water and, in many cases, indulge in a few brewskies. Whether it is Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona or Lake Hartwell, one thing is certain: the best way to experience the lake is by boat. When alcohol and boating combine, however, disaster can ensue.
Deaths associated with alcohol-related incidents on the water last year prompted Georgia to get more serious about its boating laws; the state recently lowered the maximum blood alcohol level for boat operators from 0.10 to 0.08 to match the existing level for automobile drivers. Marc Teichner, FOX 5 reporter, states in a recent report that state lawmakers say the idea behind this new law is to ensure that everyone is safe while they are on the water.
It seems clear that boating under the influence would be more perilous than driving a car while under the influence. According to the Boating and Safety Resource Center website, alcohol is more dangerous to boaters because boat operators are often less experienced and less confident on the water than on the highway. Recreational boaters do not have the benefit of daily boat operation. In fact, boaters average only 110 hours on the water per year.
Though boating accidents may occur less frequently than automobile accidents, there is more risk involved. The Recourse Center explains that alcohol is more hazardous on the water than on land because the marine environment itself– the motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. With these factors in mind, it seems like an obvious decision to increase boater safety laws. Lowering the blood alcohol level is a good start to preventing Georgia’s lakes from becoming death traps.
The Georgia Department of Natural Recourses states that those arrested for boating under the influence may lose their privilege to operate a boat or PWC until they successfully complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program approved by the Department of Driver Services. They will also be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and/or prison time up to one year.
This is a step in the right direction for boater safety. BUIs should be treated with the same stern guidelines as DUIs in order to decrease the number of fatalities and injuries on Georgia’s waterways. Not only is it sensible, but it is practical and it is fair. A family enjoying a summer day at the lake should not have to endure the risk of potentially dangerous boaters on the water.
Much like how the dangers of driving under the influence have been continually drilled into our minds, every boater needs to understand the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Increasing the safety and protection of boaters and passengers does not have to be at the expense of having fun.
A day out on the boat should be an enjoyable summer experience, especially for college students. Let us make sure we keep it that way.
Brittany is a senior communication major.