Boating accidents, alcohol and your safety

Boating on Alabama's coast, lakes and rivers is extremely popular in the summer. It does, however, come with the risk of serious injury or death. You need to know how to keep yourself and your family safe on the water.

The number of U.S. recreational boating accidents grew over the past year, according to a recent Coast Guard report. The Coast Guard's statistics show that there were 701 recreational boating deaths in 2016, which is up nearly 100 deaths from 2014.

What makes boating hazardous?

Any activity taking place on or in water is inherently dangerous. Combine that with the power and velocity of speedboats and other watercraft, and the circumstances become even more dangerous.

While there are numerous reasons boating accidents occur, the number one cause is alcohol use, according to the Coast Guard's report. Boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI) is a crime in Alabama, with penalties similar to those in DUI cases. Unfortunately, this does not stop everyone from operating a boat or watercraft while intoxicated.

Drunk boaters are a hazard to everyone on the water, including themselves and their passengers. Alcohol slows their reaction time, impairs their motor skills and makes it more difficult for them to concentrate on piloting the boat. They may also fail to notice swimmers, boats and other objects until it is too late.

Having a sober driver in a boat is just as important as it is in cars, trucks and other vehicles. If you are driving the boat, make sure you are sober. If you are a passenger in a boat and the driver is intoxicated, offer to drive or ask if someone else can drive. It's not worth risking your life and the lives of others.

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