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Is Drinking While Boating (or Biking) Legal?

We all know that drinking while driving is wrong. But when it comes to summertime fun, some people have questions about drinking safety for summertime vehicles. Check out what you should know before you go boating or biking.

Boating while under the influence

Think having a beer while driving a boat is harmless? Think again. After all, you wouldn’t be so cavalier behind the wheel of a car, would you?

And yet many boaters think having a cold one is part of the fun. But that fun can turn deadly with a buzzed boat driver. In fact, according to the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, alcohol is a factor in almost half of all boating accidents.

With the combination of sun, water, glare, engine noise, and vibration, boaters may feel the effects of alcohol even faster. Also, many boaters aren’t terribly experienced operating a boat as a seasonal activity, which can further reduce reaction time and judgment.

A BUI citation is every bit as real as a DUI. It’s a federal offense to operate a boat while intoxicated, and in most states, the blood alcohol limit is the same as driving: 0.8 percent or more. So are the repercussions: your driving record could be affected, your boat could be seized, and you could face hefty fines.

Police can board your boat without cause in some states, and they can also set up “BUI checkpoints,” just like DUI checkpoints. Same goes for personal watercraft, such as jet skis, sailboards, fishing boats, and other nonmotorized boats.

So don’t risk it. Leave the beer in the cooler or enjoy the open water safely with a designated captain.

Cycling while under the influence

You thought you were smart to leave your car at home for the afternoon summer pub crawl and bring your bike instead?

Not so fast. Biking while intoxicated is a thing, at least in some states. Yes, this is one of those areas where states have their own laws. In some states, the DUI law applies to bikes. In others, it doesn’t. For example, in Washington state, the law specifically says they will escort you to a safe place and impound your bike, which you can retrieve for free rather than giving you a citation (unless you disobey another traffic law).

Other states, like California, say that DUI laws don’t apply to bikes, but a separate law makes it illegal to bike under the influence, albeit with a far more lenient punishment than a DUI.

And there’s always the risk of being stopped for public intoxication, which has its own set of punishments and fines. If you’re not abstaining, have someone who can safely get you home or call a taxi.

The bottom line? Drinking and summertime vehicles don’t mix.


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