Expert wants boaters to know the rules about drinking on the water

May 16, 2024, 8:00 PM

The Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation warns that drinking while operating a boat is illegal....

The Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation warns that drinking while operating a boat is illegal. (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — Boating season is upon us, and the Division of Outdoor Recreation is reminding recreational drivers about the rules of drinking and operating a boat. 

How legal is it to drink on a boat?

That’s a layered question, and the Division’s Chief of Law Enforcement Steve Bullock said many people don’t know the rules. 

Bullock said Utah laws allow passengers to have open containers of alcohol on a boat. However, drinking and driving a boat is absolutely illegal. Bullock said the law states that the operator of the boat can’t have an open container of alcohol within arms reach. 

“There’s other impairment factors that can happen on the water … You have wind and waves and the sun and all that kind of stuff exacerbates the alcohol issue,” Bullock said. “What we really want to prevent is drinking and driving … operating any type of motor vehicle whether it’s a boat or [your] vehicle down the road.” 

This week on KSL NewsRadio, Dave & Dujanovic are keeping your family safe with summer water safety tips from the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation. (Ike Yospe via Canva)

Right under not wearing a life jacket, which Bullock said causes 80% of drownings across the country, the second leading killer while on a boat are alcohol involved incidents. 

“Our rangers across the state are trained to detect impairment on the water,” Bullock said.

There are field sobriety tests rangers use that don’t rely on balance rangers employ on the water.

Importance of a designated driver

One problem his officers run into often is that driving responsibilities on a boat often change as an outing continues. 

For example, he said drivers will switch out with each other so one can go water skiing or wake surfing. 

“You have to make sure that you have a designated operator,” Bullock said. 

And we’ve all heard of sea legs. Bullock said balance issues out on the water are hard enough to deal with sober. 

“You kind of lose your balance [through] the consumption of alcohol and other drugs in a recreational environment … boating can compound some of those things and create additional impairment which affects your safety,” he said. 

So, when you’re living it up this summer on the boat, remember that impaired driving laws aren’t only for the road. 

“Our officers are really on the watch. That’s what they’re looking for. That’s the number one concern. Is that boating under the influence because we want we want the other families on the water to be safe. And the people in that boat to be safe,” Bullock said. 

Read more: DWR discovers more efficient way to decontaminate boats from quagga mussels

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Outdoors + Recreation

Bryonia, also known as bryony, is a weed that is part of the cucumber family. It looks very similar...

Michelle Lee

How to control the noxious bryonia weed

Do you have bryonia creeping up in your yard? If you do, be very careful because this white poisonous weed can be extremely noxious. Here are some tips on how to identify and control it.

1 day ago

A view of the state Capitol and the Salt Lake City skyline....

Andrew Gordon

High temps bring warnings and ozone problems to Utah

Utah's high temperatures have brought on the hottest day of the year so far in the state, along with warnings and ozone issues.

2 days ago

Utah is flirting with triple-digit weather this weekend and as tempting as it may be police say to ...

Josuee Sanchez

Stay away from fast-moving water this summer

Utah is flirting with triple-digit weather this weekend and as tempting as it may be police say to stay away from fast-moving water.

2 days ago

Provo police are urging people to stay at least 40 feet away from the Provo River, after three peop...

Emma Keddington

Officials warn people to stay away from the Provo River

Provo police say it's vital right now, when the Provo River is running at a very fast rate, to stay at least 40 feet away from all riverbanks. 

2 days ago

A bison pictured at Antelope Island. If you encounter a bison in the wild, the best thing to do is ...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Encounter a bison? Wildlife officials say to keep your distance

Just because bison aren't predators doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. Wildlife officials urge people to give bison their space.

4 days ago

Provo police said a 13-year-old boy fell into the Provo River at Riverside Park on Tuesday afternoo...

Clayre Scott

Teen falls into the Provo River at Riverside Park, rescued by a passerby and firefighters

The child was reportedly found and removed from the water between Riverside and Alligator Parks, police said at that time he was doing okay.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Expert wants boaters to know the rules about drinking on the water