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Boating under the influence: How alcohol affects your driving

Drinking alcohol has the potential to be more dangerous when you're on the water than on land, partially because there is a high risk of drowning and harming others using shared waterways. There are federal and state laws in place to prevent individuals from driving while intoxicated on the water.

Many people do drink while boating, which is generally legal unless they are over the limit to drive. It's not a good idea to drink any amount of alcohol and drive, though, because alcohol can have a greater impact when on the water.

How does alcohol affect you on a boat?

Alcohol causes dangerous side effects that to impaired drivers. These include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Poor coordination
  • Faulty balance
  • Slow reaction times

Drinking alcohol can also cause drowsiness, dizziness and can even result in someone passing out if he or she drinks too much.

With the added movement of the boat and the potential for dehydration, consuming alcohol is even more dangerous for boaters. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, and when combined with a hot day, puts a person in danger of dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration can be debilitating and include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Cramping
  • Electrolyte imbalances

What can you do to avoid dehydration and impairment on a boat?

If you do plan to drink, you should limit yourself to a single drink per hour or less. You should also alternate between alcoholic beverages and water to help prevent dehydration. It's a good idea to have at least one person designated as a sober driver, so you don't have to worry if you end up developing symptoms of dehydration or intoxication.

Because of the potential for dehydration, there is also a risk that you could become intoxicated with less alcohol. Dehydration increases the effects of intoxication, as the body struggles to eliminate alcohol as quickly as possible.

Georgia's laws prohibit those with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 percent or higher from driving boats, which is the same as the laws for motor vehicles. It's also against the law for any boat's driver to allow someone else to drive who may be under the influence of alcohol.

To avoid a DUI and stay safe on the water, it's best to leave alcohol at home or to make sure you have a designated driver for your trip every time you're on the water.

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