|No speed limits, no traffic signals, no merging lanes, no potholes. If you think that makes operating a boat under the influence of alcohol safer than drinking and driving, you could be dead wrong. Alcohol or drug use affects your ability to function in three critical ways.
Your balance, judgment and reaction time are
affected almost immediately after you start using
drugs or alcohol.
A FEW BEERS UNDER YOUR BELT CAN PUT
Alcohol, and drugs also, can have an effect on your BALANCE which can be critical on a boat; simply
falling overboard and drowning accounts for at least one in four boating fatalities. When you are "tipsy",
the unstable, moving platform of the boat can easily cause you to fall overboard.
Mary just took her prescription medication. While she is legally able to take her medication, the label warns against using machinery, and also warns against sun exposure. She quickly feels intoxicated, even though she isn't. She's pulled over, and receives a ticket for operating under the influence. You don't have to use illegal drugs to be charged!
Pat was operating his boat while using an illegal stimulant, as he thought it would make him more "aware" of his surroundings. Because of the drugs' effects, he over-steered his boat and crashed...
Harry is just finishing his second beer. His Blood Alcohol Content is only one-third of what would make him legally drunk. But Harry has "Boater's Hypnosis" and by drinking only two beers during the last hour, he increased his chances of having an accident.
Will Harry risk an accident or the possibility of a $1,000 federal fine by having another drink? Or will he play it smart and either stop drinking or turn the helm over to a sober skipper?
The alcohol that makes you lose your balance also reduces your body's ability to protect you against the cold water. With alcohol in your blood, the numbing effects of cold water occur much faster than when you are sober. Within minutes, you may not be able to call for help, swim to a float or reach the safety of the boat.
Additionally, imbibing alcohol can lessen motor function, skew judgment and interfere with decision-making ability. In the event of a fall overboard, it can increase the danger of cardiac arrest and some researchers believe drinking increases susceptibility to inner ear disorientation that is said to cause some swimmers to swim down, instead of up, thus increasing the risk of death or serious injury.
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS CAN MAKE A BAD
What else do you lose when you drink or use drugs? Your JUDGMENT. In skills tests, impaired boat operators all reported that they were better operators while intoxicated than sober, despite instrument readings that documented their reduced performance. Alcohol or drugs reduced inhibitions, causing normally cautious people to try stunts or enter high-risk situations a sober person would avoid.
ALCOHOL ONLY MAKES YOU THINK YOU ARE PERFORMING BETTER ... AND DRAMATICALLY INCREASES YOUR REACTION TIME:
Alcohol severely diminish your ability to react to several different signals at once. With the first drink, brain functions are depressed. It takes longer to receive information from your eyes, ears and other senses, and still more time to react. When peripheral vision, focus and depth perception are impaired by alcohol, it is difficult to correctly judge speed and distance, or track moving objects. Reduced night vision and the inability to distinguish red from green make the intoxicated night boater an even greater hazard.