There is a strong historical connection between alcohol and boats. It started with ancient seafarers and has continued to modern day.
While drinking and driving has a significant stigma associated with it, the same stigma has not taken such fierce hold in the world of boating. As a result, impaired operation of boats both large and small remains a significant problem.
During Seafair and other major events on Lake Washington there is a significant law enforcement presence and intoxicated operators are both ticketed and taken to jail. However, the rest of the year sees relatively little enforcement of these laws. As a result, collisions between vessels and other accidents involving alcohol are frequent.
Alcohol – while to some degree tolerated on the water – is one of the least tolerated factors when it comes to trying a personal injury or wrongful death case. The plaintiff’s consumption of alcohol can often be the death knell for a case. By the same token, the defendant’s intoxication bodes variably drive both favorable settlements and high verdicts.
It is important both for operators and occupants to realize that operating a boat while intoxicated carries the same risks as drunk driving.