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Drinking and Boating: A Deadly Mix


A recent boating tragedy on Nagawicka Lake involving a fatality caused by an impaired boat operator serves as painful reminder why Wisconsin law prohibits anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs from operating a motorboat or manipulating water skis and other such devices. Those who are arrested for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) face stiff penalties such as jail time, hefty fines and loss of license.

Wisconsin law states that a person is considered to be operating a vessel under the influence if he or she:

  • Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher
  • Is under the influence of any controlled substance or any other drug, or any combination of alcohol, controlled substance, or drugs that render that person incapable of operating safely

Wisconsin’s law enforcement takes BUI extremely seriously. Over the July 4th holiday weekend, more than 200 officers from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and 37 other agencies, took part in Operation Dry Water. The annual campaign seeks to cut back on the number of BUI accidents on the state’s waterways. This year’s initiative resulted in more than 10,000 boaters being stopped, resulting in 344 citations, an increase of 70% over the last year. While most of those were for violations such as not having the proper number of life jackets or proper registration, a large number of citations were given to boaters who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Over this Labor Day weekend, expect that Wisconsin’s law enforcement will be out on the water in in full force again.

If your holiday plans take you to a lake or river, in addition to always designating a sober member of your party to captain the boat, it is important to consider some common myths about Boating Under the Influence:

Myth #1: It’s OK to drink and operate a boat as long as it isn’t powered by a motor.

  • This is not true. You can get a BUI for floating in a kayak while under the influence. BUI laws pertain to all water-born vessels. Impairment on the water, even in canoes and small sailboats, can lead to boating accidents.

Myth #2: Boating under the influence only pertains to being under the influence of alcohol.

  • False. BUI means boating under the influence of any intoxicant, including both legal and illegal drugs. You can get a BUI while under the influence of a prescribed medication if it is determined that the medication caused operator impairment.

When an Accident Does Happen

If you or a loved one gets hurt while on a boat and it is not your fault, you may be able to pursue medical compensation and damages.

To be eligible to receive damages, you must be able to prove that your injury resulted from the negligent acts of a third party. Just because you were injured doesn’t mean anyone was negligent. Because negligence is the failure to act with reasonable care, you (with the help of your lawyer) must be able to prove that someone failed to act with reasonable care. Furthermore, you must be able to prove that, as a result, you were injured.

At Casey Law Offices, our Milwaukee personal injury attorneys can help prove negligence and obtain justice in a boating accident. With more than 25 year of experience, we can help you get the maximum award for your case. Simply call us at (414) 272-5564 or contact us online.

Please have a safe and fun Labor Day.