Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) staff and volunteers across the country are teaming up with law enforcement to promote safe boating and educate the community about the dangers of operating a boat or watercraft while impaired by alcohol or other drugs.

“The past two years have been treacherous not just on our roads, but on our waterways as well,” said MADD National President Alex Otte. “We want everyone to understand that a boat is a vehicle, and that BUI is DUI. Impairment by alcohol or any other drugs on the water is extremely dangerous and 100% preventable. The safest choice for boaters is to wait until they are on land and at a location they will not need to drive away from – either by boat or car.”  

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is a leading known contributing factor in fatal boating incidents. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading contributing factor in 18% of deaths in 2020.

Additionally, a boater is likely to become impaired more quickly than an automobile driver, and even moderate drinking can cause significant impairment on a boat. The environmental stressors of the marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and spray – accelerate the impairing effect of alcohol.  These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boater’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.

Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against federal law and most state laws.

“It’s important to remember that driving any type of vehicle on the water or on land can cause traumatic injuries and tragic loss of life,” Alex Otte said. “After a day on the water, don’t forget that you still need to get home, so make sure you have a non-drinking designated driver to get everyone home safely.”

MADD supports the U.S. Coast Guard and other water safety agencies in their efforts to remind all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and never drink and operate a boat. For more information, visit madd.org/bui.