Boaters, beware: Drinking, driving could get you a BUI

OLYMPIA — Boaters, take note: state and local law enforcement agencies will join forces to conduct boating under the influence, or BUI, emphasis patrols on waterways across Washington, from Memorial Day weekend through Aug. 19.

Emphasis patrols are planned during peak times from June 30 to July 2 statewide for the national Operation Dry Water. Other specific recreational waterways in the state also have been targeted for the emphasis patrols.

The Washington State Parks Boating Program and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police, and city and county marine patrol units around the state are working together to remind boaters of the risks of boating while impaired by drugs or alcohol. In Washington state, it is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a boat.

“It is never safe to operate a boat under the influence,” said Wade Alonzo, state parks boating law administrator. “Boat operators are responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone on board. We urge boaters to designate a sober skipper before heading out on the water.”

In this state, alcohol and drugs were a contributing factor in almost 30 percent of boating fatalities and 18 percent of boating injuries between 2005 and 2011, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics report. The state has seen a slight decline since strengthening the BUI law in 2013.

State law allows law enforcement officers to require suspected intoxicated boaters to submit to a breath or blood test. Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050. The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail.

A BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence, according to the Coast Guard. The BUI law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts.