Every year, approximately 2.5 million Wisconsin residents take to the state’s waterways, spending time by the beach, swimming or boating, which underscores the topic of this article. Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is against the law in Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, accidents happen. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement is responsible for gathering boat incident reports and conveying that information to the U.S. Coast Guard. Their 2017 report showed that while operator inexperience was the number one contributing factor in boat incidents, alcohol involvement was second.
The total number of 2017 fatalities due to boating accidents was 25. Alcohol use was involved in 40% of these accidents, representing a 12-year high and a 26% increase over 2016! Ninety-one motorboat drivers received citations for operating a boat while under the influence of an intoxicant.
Wisconsin’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws and penalties
Every state in the union has laws prohibiting operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Here is a snapshot of Wisconsin’s BUI laws and penalties.
The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is the same as it is for driving a car. It must be under 0.08 (.04% for commercial boaters).
Having a “detectable amount” of a controlled substance in the blood is against the law for anyone operating a motorboat.
A first offense normally carries a fine of $150-$300.
A second offense, when the BUI offender has one prior conviction within the past five years, carries a sentence of 5 days to six months in jail and fines of $300-$1000.
A third offense, with two prior BUI convictions within the past five years, carries a 30 day to one year jail sentence and fines of $600-$2000.
If a driver convicted of BUI caused injury to another while under the influence, jail time is 30 days to one year and fines of $300-$2000.
Anyone convicted of a BUI offense must complete a state-approved boating safety program.
Anyone convicted of a BUI will be ordered by the judge to be assessed for and comply with recommended substance abuse treatment.
How to avoid a BUI personal injury accident
Driving a boat impaired is even more dangerous than driving a vehicle impaired. The reason for this is that there are no road signs or lanes on the water to guide a boat operator. Therefore, a boat operator can go in any direction and at any angle, increasing the likelihood of a boating accident.
You don’t want you or your boat passengers to become another statistic, nor do you want to live your life knowing your negligent actions injured or killed someone. By following basic safety rules, you can avoid a BUI personal injury accident.
Never drink and drive a boat.
If drinking is going to occur, name a designated driver.
Know that the deadliest boating (and car) accidents occur on the weekends of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Just as with driving a car, drive your boat defensively.
Boating laws (including BUI laws) and regulations are different in every state, so be sure to be aware of them if traveling out of state. In addition, some states do not allow open containers in a boat.
Life vests are an essential for avoiding injury or death. Because alcohol impairs one’s balance and judgment, it is very important that everyone in the boat wear life vests. It is a requirement in many states that children wear them.
Operation Dry Water
Boating Under the Influence is a major factor in accidents and deaths nationwide. As a result, officers with local, state and federal agencies continue to team up annually for an awareness and enforcement campaign. Wisconsin officers are on the water each year, just before the Fourth of July, to teach about the dangers of drinking while boating, while enforcing the BUI laws.
In the unfortunate event you or a loved one is injured in a boating accident due to someone operating a motorboat while under the influence, you should consult with an experienced boating BUI attorney. He or she will evaluate the evidence to determine whether you have a claim. A knowledgeable Wisconsin boating accident attorney can help you win your case.
Warmer weather is a time for fun on the water, but please, take precautions to protect yourself, your friends, your family and others by avoiding alcohol and driving defensively when operating a boat.
If you have any questions about this article or any area of personal injury law, see the contact info below.
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