OUTDOORS + RECREATION

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)

(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

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