Boating Under The Influence: Facts You Need To Know

By Debbie Hanson

Jun 27, 2017

Get the facts about boating under the influence, laws about bui, how a day on the water can speed up your level of impairment, the dangers of boat dui

Boating can offer you a natural buzz that comes from healthy things like sunshine, relaxation, and reeling in the catch of the day. All of these awesome things considered, why would you even think about risking your life by boating under the influence? Do yourself a favor, grab a bass and skip the beer.

Not only is boating under the influence illegal in every state, according to U.S. Coast Guard research on recreational boating accidents and the contribution of BUI, alcohol is a leading contributing factor in boating accidents. Make sure you know these important facts about alcohol and boat safety.

• Can you get a DUI on a boat? Yes, every state has laws that prohibit boat driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The details of these laws may vary by state, but you absolutely can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while intoxicated. This means that the answer to the question "Can you drink and drive a boat?" is "No."

• The U.S. Coast Guard routinely patrols our nation's waterways and can arrest you if you drive a boat under the influence, just like police officers can arrest you if you drive a car under the influence.

• What are the potential consequences of a boat DUI or BUI? Conviction for a BUI may not only lead to the suspension or loss of your boating license, but you may also lose your driver's license in some states.

• Engine noise, sun, wind, and heat can speed up the level of impairment caused by alcohol consumption while on the water. You can learn more about this and other dangers associated with BUI by reading about the U.S. Coast Guard's BUI initiatives. 

• Bring non-alcoholic beverages, such as sodas, water, iced tea, and lemonade on board instead. Follow the laws and set a good example of boat safety. 

• If you decide to have lunch at a waterfront restaurant and drink alcohol with your meal, remember that you need to wait a minimum of an hour per drink before operating your boat to avoid boating under the influence.

•  Know that BUI laws apply to all boats (including canoes and rowboats). When deciding where to boat, consider spots that are close to home to avoid becoming fatigued and making a poor decision. Remember that fresh air and sun can make you feel tired much quicker than you might think.

Remember, the answer to the question "Can you drink and drive a boat?" will always be "No." If you are a new boat owner, you can learn more about boating safety classes and registering your boat on the state info pages.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.