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Boating with friends? Leave the alcohol behind

Summer is in full swing, making boating excursions popular weekend activities for many Calgary residents. Spending the afternoon out on the water can be fun and relaxing, but if alcohol is being consumed, you could rack up a drunk driving charge for boating while intoxicated.

There are many dangers present out on the open water, not the least of which is the sudden summer storms that can whip up the waves to dangerous heights. A drunk or otherwise impaired boater may not be able to pilot the boat through foul weather, putting not just the boater in danger, but any passengers or others out on the water.

Boaters must be prepared for changes in visibility due to rain, fog, mist and darkened skies. Bad weather can make it more difficult to navigate through shoals and around rock jetties or tree stumps protruding from the water. Adding alcohol to the mix can further cloud your ability to manoeuvre around these hazards.

Boaters also need to be on the lookout for other boaters, swimmers and those operating jet skis on the wakes. If you are intoxicated and run over a skier waiting for their boat to circle back, for instance, a charge of driving under the influence may be the least of your worries — you may be facing criminal negligence or manslaughter charges. The same applies if you pilot your boat recklessly and swamp another boat and the occupant drowns.

When someone drinks alcohol to excess, judgment is impaired. This can cause the person to behave negligently and disregard safety protocols. Drinking on a boat can also reduce fine motor functions like eye-hand coordination, leaving you fumbling for the controls in an emergency.

Those facing charges of boating while intoxicated should mount aggressive defenses to have the best chance at a positive outcome.

Source: Transport Canada, "Operate at a safe speed," accessed June 17, 2016

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