Can you get a dui in a canoe

Can you get a dui in a canoe

Being out on the lake or the river, paddling along in your kayak seems like a leisure time activity, that can only be made more enjoyable with the addition of a beer or some other alcoholic beverage, right? Not so fast. You may or may not have already asked yourself, “can you get a DUI on a kayak?”.

Yes. You can get a DUI or a BUI while on a kayak. Almost every state will consider a kayak as a vessel and applicable under the law.

We’ll explore more below why it’s entirely possible to get a DUI on a kayak.

What is a BUI?

If you are operating almost any type of vessel, like a sailboat, yacht, canoe, fishing boat, or other personal watercraft you could be charged with boating under the influence. But, is boating under the influence the same thing as driving under the influence?

As far as the blood alcohol content is concerned, there is no difference. All 50 states have a max blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08. This is with the exception of Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. These states have a .10 BAC limit.

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Under BUI law, law enforcement can stop you while operating your boat or other watercraft (like a kayak) to make sure that you’re under the legal limit and safe to be on the water.

Boating Under the Influence is a Real Thing

woman using a breathalyzer

The United States Coast Guard states on their website that a boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink. The Coast Guard is the Federal arm that enforces boating under the influence laws, and every state has a law against boating under the influence. Boating under the influence is not a made-up thing and you really can get busted for it.

Plus, alcohol consumption that leads to a fatality is a completely avoidable outcome. But, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you weren’t aware of whether or not you could actually get a DUI or BUI on a kayak, then it’s hard to follow the law. Only adding to this confusion is the fact that these laws can differ from state to state.

Dangers of Drinking While Kayaking

Regardless of whether you think laws governing drinking and kayaking are frivolous or not, there are real dangers that exist for operating any type of water vessel while intoxicated. In fact, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. 71 percent of these fatalities were from drowning.

So, it’s not just the fun police trying to make life on the weekends boring. There is good reason to regulate alcohol consumption while boating and using other water vessels.

Lack of Judgement

When you’ve been drinking, the effects of the alcohol can deteriorate your ability to make good choices, even when it comes to your own safety.

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When you’re drinking, the alcohol makes it harder for the area of your brain that governs decision-making and rational thought to perform its normal duties. The effect of this is making it much more likely that you act without thinking rationally about your actions.

Decision Making Process Slows

In the same way, that judgment is impaired, alcohol consumption is also going to slow down how information is processed in the brain. Our brain is constantly taking in stimuli from our environment and incorporating that into our decision-making process. When drinking alcohol, will make this harder and you might not be able to fully comprehend the consequences of certain actions you might take.

Vision is Impaired

Alcohol can literally weaken the muscles in your eyes and slow down communication between what you’re actually seeing and the brain being able to accurately interpret that information.

Do Boating Laws Apply to a Kayak?

people kayaking in a lake

Ok, so this is mainly for boats only right? Yes, it is. However, for many states, the laws for drinking and operating a boat are the same as driving and it’s true for a boat, canoe, kayak, or rowboats.

All 50 states have laws that govern Boating Under the Influence or more broadly Operating Under the Influence. What this means is that it’s an offense to operate a vessel while having a blood alcohol content level over the legal limit. This will include the use of a kayak.

What Does the Law Say About Punishment for a BUI or DUI on a Kayak?

The penalties involved for getting a BUI, even when kayaking, can differ from state to state. Most of the time they may include:

  • Fines and tickets
  • Jail
  • Loss or a suspension of any boating or kayaking license
  • Participation in substance abuse treatment programs or alcohol education
  • Seizure of the boat or vessel
  • Other criminal charges

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For example, in Ohio, the Operating Under the Influence laws apply to alcohol and drugs. These OUI laws do apply to a kayak. OUI penalties are this:

  • First Offense: 3 days in jail and $150 fine to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine
  • Second Offense: 10 days in jail and a $150 fine to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine
  • Third Offense: 30 days in jail and a $150 fine to 1 year in jail and a $1000 fine

These laws can apply to not only a kayak as a vessel but even someone operating water skis.

How to Not Get a DUI or BUI While Kayaking

people drinking alcohol next to kayaks

What’s the best way to not get caught drinking while kayaking? Don’t drink and kayak. It’s pretty simple. When you think about it, it’s really not worth it, and it’s not cool.

Consider the possibility of tragedy in exchange for just wanting to drink some beer while paddling down the river. Dangers always exist and when you add alcohol to the mix it can compound any dangerous situation.

Final Thoughts

The problem when it comes to kayaking and drinking is that kayaking is not usually considered the same as a motorized boat, a car, or some other vehicle we usually consider when thinking of traditional DUI’s.

It seems like having a good time and innocent fun. I get it. I was somewhat surprised to learn this information too, but what I found was that all states will consider any vessel on the water to fall under the same rules for impaired operation. BUI’s definitely apply to a kayak for this very reason. A kayak is considered a vessel.

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