Why Was This Boater Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison?
A judge sentenced a woman to seven years in prison last month for a boating accident that happened in December of 2013.
That day, the boater and her boyfriend were drinking and enjoying the weather when she drove her 18-foot boat into a piling underneath the Old Griffin Road Bridge in Dania Beach, Florida. A surveillance video taken from a home in a nearby neighborhood showed how the drunk boater tied the boat down to a nearby dock after the crash and failed to flag down another boat for helped when it passed by. She then wandered around through a yard in the neighborhood and again failed to ask any of the residents for help. She was also shown drinking from what looks like a bottle and tossing the container off the boat before she finally called emergency services for help, almost 30 minutes after the crash.
During her call to emergency dispatcher, she said her boyfriend was bleeding excessively, but still breathing. However, by the time emergency services arrived, the victim was dead. Empty beer containers were littered across the boat and the boater was incoherent. It is implied that had she called for help sooner, the drunk boating victim would still be alive.
Drunk Boating is Still as Dangerous as Drunk Driving
It may seem safer to drink on a boat compared to drinking and getting in a car. After all, there are no traffic signals, no merging lanes, less traffic and forget speed limits. However, alcohol affects a boater’s judgement, reaction time and balance and is the same effect as operating a car and should not be an option when operating a vessel .
According to Boat U.S. Foundation, falling overboard and drowning accounts for one in four passenger boat fatalities. A boat is a consistently moving platform and is inherently unstable. Add alcohol to the mix and you’ve just made it that much easier to fall overboard. Moreover, alcohol reduces the body’s ability to protect itself from colder waters. The numbing effects that cold water naturally has acts much more quickly on people who have been drinking. Within minutes, a passenger who has fallen overboard is almost completely unable to move or call for help.
Boaters Should Avoid Alcohol When Operating a Vessel
The legal blood alcohol limit maximum required to operate a boat is .08 in all 50 states, which typically amounts to one beer per hour, depending on the person’s weight. Any more than that can be dangerous to the operator and all passengers on board. Boating takes a lot of concentration. When out on the water, where there are no traffic signals, no speed limits and random people enjoying a swim, it is important for the operator to be alert. Whenever operating a vessel, the Operator should avoid consuming alcohol.
Latti & Anderson LLP is a maritime injury law firm that fights for victims who have been injured at sea.