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Officials: Boating and alcohol is a recipe for disaster

By Staff | Apr 17, 2019

Many boaters are not aware of the very real, life-threatening dangers associated with consuming alcohol while boating. Add environmental stressors to the usual factors resulting from drinking alcohol, and a truly perilous condition is present, according to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Consuming any type of alcohol produces certain physiological responses that directly affect safety and well-being of the captain, passengers and other boaters. Judgment and skills deteriorate impacting peripheral vision, balance and ability to process information. Physical performance and reaction time are reduced.

Alcohol reduces depth perception, night vision, focus and the ability to distinguish colors, especially red and green navigation lights. Alcohol consumption can result in inner ear disturbance, which can make it impossible for a person suddenly immersed in water to distinguish up from down. Life jackets are designed to move unconscious victims face up, providing they are wearing one in the first place.

People from around the globe come to enjoy the local waterways. One of the biggest challenges is they bring their own boating perspectives from back home and are unfamiliar with navigating the Florida waterways and fail to realize the physical impacts of the Florida heat, sun and wind.

The leading cause of fatalities in Florida are falls overboard, with 81 percent not wearing a life jacket. Public safety experts encourage boaters to wear their life jackets and save the drinking for the marina.

“The Coast Guard has a zero tolerance policy for boating while intoxicated,” U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Commander Nick Kaveski said. “Always have a sober captain and save the party for the pier.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission – the lead agency in investigating boating accidents – reported that in 2017 that 67 percent of boating accident fatalities did not take a boating safety class.

All boaters should learn more about safe boating by taking a safe boating class. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, must have a Boating Safety Education ID Card to legally operate a boat in Florida. Boaters can find the local classes at www.aux91fmb.org/safeboating or call 239-690-6780 option 1.

For more information, visit www.cgaux.org