Law enforcement officials utilize many of the same methods for preventing boating under the influence as they do for driving under the influence. To prevent operators from violating boating laws, both the Coast Guard and state police monitor boating areas.
The officers tend to focus on areas that are particularly popular, or known as “party” boating areas, and patrol heavily during holidays-a time when drinking while boating increases. Law enforcement officials are on the watch for people who drive boats erratically and recklessly. When a possible offender is spotted, the officials often ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests and to take a chemical test to determine if he or she has been drinking.
There are many different types of field tests that an officer can request a boater to perform. Oftentimes, a person is asked to stand on one leg or recite the alphabet or a group of numbers.
An officer may also position an object, usually a pen, about one foot from the operator’s face and then move the object from one side to another while observing the driver’s eye movements. If there is any involuntary jerking or trembling of the eyes, the driver most likely has been drinking.
Simpler field tests used to evaluate a person’s coordination and balance include having the boater stand with heels together and arms at the side with one leg raised about six inches off the ground while counting aloud. The boater may also be asked to place his or her feet together while standing with eyes closed and arms extended, and then asked to touch his or her nose with an index finger.
If a boat operator performs poorly on any of these tests, the officer has probable cause to arrest the person for alcohol impaired boating. The results of these tests may be used as proof in a court of law. An officer also has the right to arrest a person solely upon observation of the driver’s behavior, although normally a blood, breath, or urine test is required.
There are some anti-drinking and boating advocacy groups that also work to prevent BUI. The most notable of the groups is called BADD, Boaters Against Drunk Driving. Since its inception, BADD has been dedicated to promoting the objectives of safe, sober, and responsible boating in addition to public awareness. Thanks in part to the organization’s efforts, about 40 states have implemented a 0.08% blood alcohol level limit for their waterways.
A project that the organization is currently working on consists of tracking and publishing the results of some cases of BUI, many of which involve the death of one or more victims. The intent of this initiative is to show the boating community and the general public that boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a very serious crime with real consequences.