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Everyone knows that driving a car whilst under the influence is dangerous, stupid, and illegal.
But what about kayaks?
Sure, getting drunk and then setting out on the water is a stupid thing to do. But is it actually illegal? Keep reading to find out more.
Table of Contents
What Is A BUI?
A BUI (Boating Under the Influence) is essentially the same as a DUI, but for vessels on the waterways. A BUI is a serious conviction that, depending on your state, may carry with it stricter penalties than a DUI.
In California, for example, it is against the law to operate a motorized watercraft, a sailboat with a motor, and any water skis whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A state that has BUI laws will closely follow the DUI law limits.
Just because a BUI applies on the water does not mean that you will face no driving penalties. In some states, including California, a BUI conviction will get your driver’s license suspended or even revoked.
BUI Kayak Laws
In recent years, law enforcement agencies have tried hard to get kayak and other motorized water vessel legislation regulated.
The laws will vary a little from state to state, but you can still get charged with BUI offenses. In fact, you can get a BUI offense from just about every country in the world.
Do Kayaks Fall Under BUI Law?
The first thing that you need to know is that not all kayaks are motorized water vessels so are not covered by BUI rules.
However, operating any boat whilst intoxicated is a federal offense. This law falls under the remit of the US Coast Guard’s federal law, making it illegal in all US states. As it is a federal law, it is taken very seriously and you could incur strict penalties.
‘Boat’ in this instance also covers non-motorized vessels, including kayaks. So you can be arrested for a BUI whilst on a kayak.
Blood Alcohol Levels
In just about every state, the maximum blood alcohol content limit is 0.08%. A single 12oz beer, a single 5oz glass of wine, or a single 1.5oz distilled spirit shot is enough to put you over this blood alcohol limit.
In Wyoming and North Dakota, the threshold is a little higher at 0.1%. If you are unsure, it is always best to check the local state rules to find out the maximum permitted blood alcohol content.
It is undisputed that you will get into a little bit of trouble if you are caught kayaking whilst over the legal limit. However, the severity of the penalties that you will be subject to will vary.
If you are caught and it is your first offense, you will likely be treated as a misdemeanor. You can expect to pay $200 to $1000 in fines but you may even end up in jail for one to six months. It is also likely that your kayak registration will be suspended for a couple of weeks to months.
Got caught a second time? Any fines will now be over $500, but don’t be surprised if they hit $2000. Jail time is also extended to around a year.
Once you hit your third offense, you are considered a repeat offender. Fines will now be well over $1000 and possibly around $3000. The maximum jail time for a repeat offender is two years.
Keep in mind that the penalties will be more severe depending on other factors. Any children on board, for example, will turn a misdemeanor into a full felony charge. Any involvement with an incident that causes injury or death to anyone will also be treated as a felony.
How To Avoid Getting A BUI On A Kayak
First and foremost, don’t drink and operate a kayak. That is the simplest, easiest, and most effective way to not get a BUI.
There are some other measures that you can take to make sure that you are always on the right side of the law.
Make sure you are polite, respectful, and above all cooperative, if you encounter any law enforcement agents. A bit of politeness may go a long way if you are skirting legality.
Give yourself enough time to sober up between drinking and going out on the water in a kayak. Schedule in a couple of hours between your last drink and kayaking to make sure that your blood alcohol level is well below 0.08%.
Why Is It Illegal To Kayak Whilst Under The Influence?
It is illegal to kayak whilst drunk for a very obvious reason: it is highly dangerous. An intoxicated person who is not in control of their faculties poses a massive risk to themselves and anyone else on the water.
Anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol will have impaired decision-making abilities and poor coordination.
This means that you will not be able to easily make the right decision and that, even if you do manage to make the right choice, you will find it difficult to maneuver the kayak to do what your brain says you should.
You also will have a slower reaction time and impaired vision. This makes it even more difficult to conduct your kayak safely and properly.
If you are drunk, you are at a higher risk of hypothermia. This is because alcohol has a warming sensation, without warming you up.
Alcohol also increases your heart rate, exacerbating the effect of exercise when you are paddling. You will find that you are unable to shiver properly or at the appropriate moment.
Shivering helps keep you warm, especially if you are in the water. Not being able to shiver properly means that you are more likely to get dangerously cold and potentially develop hypothermia.
Any mind-altering substance is going to increase your chance of drowning. Alcohol is present in the blood of around 70% of all drowning victims.
You can get the equivalent of a DUI on a kayak. This offense is called a BUI and is a federal crime.
The penalties are serious and can be severe, especially if minors are involved or if someone is injured or killed.
The best way to not get a DUI on a kayak is to not drink and ride a kayak. Remaining sober while on the water has the added benefit of significantly reducing the chances of you drowning. Sounds like a win-win to us.
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