July is one of the most dangerous months on the water, and July 4th in particular poses some serious risks for boaters. It’s often the deadliest boating day of the year, and over 20% of deadly boating accident reports listed alcohol as a leading cause.

That’s enough reason alone to avoid getting behind the wheel of a boat after drinking, but even if you’re lucky enough to avoid an accident you could find yourself facing Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) charges that put your freedom at risk.

Boating BAC limits

Similar to a typical DUI, a BWI charge is automatic if the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or above. The driver of a boat can also be charged with a BWI if their BAC is as low as .05% and is found to be exhibiting signs of intoxication that would limit their ability to operate the boat safely.

If you’re found to be boating while intoxicated, the charges start as a Class C misdemeanor, but the charges can quickly become worse if you have multiple BWI offenses or cause a serious bodily injury while boating. In this case, you could face both Class C and Class D felonies. The charges could cost you not only your boating license but also your actual driver’s license.

Who can drink on the boat?

Open container laws don’t apply on boats the way they do in cars. In cars, drivers AND passengers are prohibited from actively drinking. In boats, everyone of legal age except the driver can drink.

This allows for some extra fun, but it’s important to stay safe. This means you shouldn’t have someone who has been drinking all day switch into the driver’s seat even if just for a moment. Police in Indiana say they’re frequently watching boats and could charge multiple people if a vessel switches drivers and operates in an unsafe manner.

As long as the driver doesn’t have an open container and has either consumed very little or no alcohol throughout the day then you are safe to celebrate. It’s always a good idea to designate a sober boater who will be responsible for driving at all times. If that’s not an option, at least have a backup driver in mind should the driver of your boat have too much to drink.

As always, you should consider all boating safety tips not only this holiday but throughout the summer. It’s okay to get out on Indiana’s beautiful waterways. From Lake Michigan to Monroe Lake to Lake Lemon, we want you to enjoy a safe and exciting time out on your boat.

If you find yourself in trouble after spending time on the water, call Blankenship Law. We know everyone makes mistakes, but you don’t have to pay for them for the rest of your life.