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Boating Under The Influence

According to eye witness Niki Couts "We were about to pull up a wake boarder when the boat came into view. We all commented that this boat was too close for comfort and decided to wait to see what the heck they were up to before taking off. It looked like they were out for a joy ride. They were traveling at a high rate of speed swerving back and forth and were headed towards a still boat. It was one of those moments when you assure yourself that distance is the reason why the boats look like they will make contact. Watching the boat's movements it went right up over the top of the other boat. I starred for a second thinking; "WOW, what just happened?" When reality finally hit we all rushed to immediately assist the crash. When we arrived there were people in the water screaming and you could see pieces of the boat floating in the water."

When a BUI is suspected in a boating accident it immediately becomes a crime scene. The vessels cannot be removed from the water until divers have inspected the boat and the marine sheriff has finished interviewing witnesses. Once investigators are finished compiling all their evidence it is turned over to the District Attorneys Office.

Craig Neidjelzski stated "We had just turned the key off to our boat and got the ladder down when I looked up and there was a boat just yards away. I started waving my arms and yelling but it was to late. The boat T-boned us at full force then careened up and over my boat ripping off the wake board tower and violently turning the boat and capsizing it. I was air lifted to the hospital. Luckily the only substantial injury I received was to my hand. Although my family was traumatized by this event they were unharmed."

The driver of the other vessel got picked up by a fishing boat and was taken to shore. Even though there were injured people from his boat lying on the marina waiting for an ambulance, he ran and hid from authorities for more than three hours. CHP finally caught him running down the road.

  • There are no "open container" laws for boats as there is for vehicles.

Captain David Phiffner with the Division of Law Enforcement at the Nevada Department of Wildlife says "A law for open containers would be very helpful but is not likely since in the past it has been met with great opposition. The public is just not in tune with boating and many feel it is a recreation that doesn't need to have legislation. People renting boats or jet skis is another huge problem. They have no experience and are not use to operating a boat. Then they add alcohol, which adds to their confusion making the waterways very unsafe."

California Department of Waterways and The Nevada Department of Wildlife both say it is important for boat operators and passengers to understand that designating a sober driver is not enough on vessels. Designating a sober driver in a car works well, but drunken passengers on a boat can easily fall overboard or swim near the propeller. There are different stress factors to consider when operating a boat such as wave action, wind, sun, glare, temperature and even engine noise. More than 80 percent of people who die in boating accidents are drowning victims and because alcohol reduces coordination and balance your chances of falling overboard as well as drowning are increased. They make it very clear that everyone who drinks alcohol on board is at risk.

  • In California a Boating Safety Course is NOT required to operate a boat.

  • In Nevada it is a law to pass a NASBLA approved Boating Safety Course to operate a boat.

California and Nevada law are similar in BUI's. The definition of boating under the influence is "to operate or be in actual physical control of a vessel under power or sail on the waters of the state while being either drunk, high or having a BAC level of at least 0.08. Anyone suspected of a BUI is required to submit to a chemical test.

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