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Boating Under the Influence

While most people know that there are penalties and punishments for those found driving under the influence, many do not realize that similar rules also apply to those operating a watercraft in Rhode Island. Boating under the influence, or BUI, can cause serious injuries or fatalities and can carry significant consequences.

According to the Alcohol Boating Safety Act, drivers of any watercraft cannot have a blood alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent. This is the same limit that is used by state officers to determine intoxication for DUI and DWI citations.

The Act goes on to say that the penalties given will depend on the blood alcohol concentration. For example, consequences may include community service, a required safety course and a fine for the first offense when the operator’s BAC is between 0.08 percent and 0.1 percent. A first offense with a blood alcohol level between 0.1 to 0.15 percent can have the same consequences, a higher fine and the potential for a prison sentence of as long as one year. The driver also loses the right to operate any watercrafts for three to six months. Fines and penalties increase as the BAC and number of offenses increase.

The U.S. Coast Guard has stated that driving a boat while under the influence is as dangerous as operating a car in the same condition and, in some instances, may actually be more risky. Impairment can also happen faster because factors like engine vibrations, wind and spraying water can cause fatigue and affect reaction time. Officials have reported that around one third of fatalities from recreational boating incidents involve alcohol.

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