There’s nothing quite as lovely as a day out on the water. The sun shining down, the gentle swell of the waves, no worries or responsibilities weighing you down. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy your time off.
You can get a DUI on a kayak. While you can be forgiven a drink or two while chilling at the lake, having too much can lead to some severe problems. Few things can ruin your fun in the sun like a pair of handcuffs and an arraignment.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the rules surrounding booze and watercraft, including how much is okay to drink, and if it is the same in every state. Read on to find out.
Can I Drink While Operating a Kayak?
You can drink while operating a kayak or any other boat. However, the same laws that apply to driving under the influence apply to boating under the influence. Each state has its legal limit, and anything over can lead to serious consequences.
What can really happen if you’re caught over the locality’s legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?
Some punishments include:
- Suspension of licenses, including boating and driving. They may put your BUI on your driving record.
- Fines of anywhere from $150 to $6,250 per offense, depending on the state.
- Jail time, from 15 days to a year, depending on the state and frequency of the offense.
- Installation of ignition interlock devices.
- Cooperation with other agencies, such as Child Protective Services.
- Banning from the area where the crime took place, such as at the beach.
- Placement in a substance abuse program.
Now, whether or not you’ll end up facing one or multiple of the above consequences is impossible to say. You could avoid being caught, be let off with a warning, or be given a minor punishment because it’s your first time.
It isn’t a consistent process and depends on many factors.
Keep in mind that minors are subject to a limit of .02% in some states and anything over 0% in others. The problem is that you have no way to predict how serious an impact your transgression will have on your life. Is it worth it?
An Issue of Safety
The most critical issue to consider is safety. Using alcohol while near large bodies of water increases your risk of accidents significantly. According to the American Boating Association, there were 4,500 boat-related accidents in 2016, leading to 700 deaths.
Alcohol was the number one contributing factor to those accidents.
There is a threat of drowning, injury, hypothermia, exposure, and property damage. When you drink, you lose coordination, reduce reaction time, and have poor vision. All of these can lead to costly mistakes. When operating a kayak, you need to move freely, see in front of you and think fast.
It doesn’t matter which way you slice it–the fact is that a kayak is no place for a rager.
Boating and State DUI Laws
The United States has federal laws by the coast guard that regulate drinking near the ocean. Smaller bodies of water, such as lakes, are subject to state laws that dictate how much you can drink.
Some national parks also have policies you have to follow when bringing alcohol onto protected land.
In most of the United States, the legal limit is .08%. This is the same BAC as operating a motorized vehicle. But keep in mind that not all states follow the original boating limit they set out.
In Utah, for example, the legal drinking limit is now .05. If you’re caught drinking on a boat, you may be subject to the new driving limit set in place in 2018.
The punishment also depends on the region, even if you’re only visiting the state. Let’s say that you’re from Colorado, where the limit is .10, but you’re caught over .08 while boating in Massachusetts. You’re facing a fine of up to $5,000 and a possible 1 year in jail.
Avoiding a DUI While on the Water
There’s only one way to 100% guarantee you won’t get a DUI while on a kayak. Don’t drink during your trip. Pretty obvious, right? But not everyone is going to follow that advice.
What are some other ways you can keep from getting busted drunk on the water?
- Plan a couple of hours between your time drinking and your time in your kayak.
- Have drinks after your day out boating.
- Have a single drink and take it with food to keep from becoming inebriated.
- If encountered by law enforcement, be helpful and cooperative, and take any field sobriety tests they require to prove you’re under the limit. Remember that in most states, refusing a test is an automatic fail, even if you aren’t over the BAC.
I’ll say it again: Not drinking is your best bet. If you plan on tying one on, keep your drinking moderated and make sure you know the law in the region to avoid getting caught unaware.
Other Substances That Can Get You in Trouble
It isn’t just alcohol that can cause you legal trouble. Driving or boating under the influence of other suspected substances, such as cannabis and prescription medication, is illegal across the entire United States.
There’s no easy test that they have in the field to figure out if you’re high,
But often the suspicion is enough to earn you a trip to the police station or hospital for a test. If you test positive, even if you’re sober at the moment, you can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
As far as consequences go, they’re the same as if you’re drunk. Plus, you could end up with a possession charge if they find that or paraphernalia on you, depending on the substance’s legal status in the state.
No one is saying you can’t have a beer while at the lake. But too much alcohol is asking for trouble, and the last thing you want is a park ranger, cop, or coast guardsman stopping you on a day to any waterfront with a breathalyzer. It’s better to practice moderation and stay safe.