Drinking and boating regs are much like auto rules

What are the laws regarding drinking and boating in Oregon? I understand they differ from laws regarding drinking and driving. Your loyal subscriber of 18 years.

— A.R. K., Central Point

Good question, and thanks for sticking with us, A.R.

With the weather getting better (aside from the smoke and rain of the past few days) and with Memorial Day weekend almost upon us, it's a good time to get a handle on laws about boating under the influence.

So we checked with Ashley Massey, public information officer for the Oregon State Marine Board.

"They're not too dissimilar," Massey said of the laws for impaired boating versus impaired driving. "The legal limit is .08 blood alcohol concentration."

A press release Massey gave us clarified that boaters still can be convicted of boating under the influence of intoxicants if marine deputies see marked impairment with a boater below .08 BAC.

None of this should come as a surprise to licensed boaters, Massey said, as the information is covered in the mandatory boater education courses.

"Enforcement is extremely strong," Massey said. "If you're operating a boat recklessly in a congested waterway, that's a red flag, so expect to be stopped."

Massey explained that boaters convicted of BUII face fines of up to $6,250, up to one year in jail, loss of boat operation privileges and suspension of boat registration for up to three years.

There's one significant difference in the rules for drinking involving boats rather than cars.

Boaters are allowed to drink and to have an open container in a boat, so long as the operator of the boat doesn't surpass the .08 limit or become impaired due to alcohol consumption.

There are no legal limits for passengers — but remember, operating the boat can consist of as little as using a paddle in a raft.

And just because it's legal doesn't mean it's wise. Mixing alcohol with large bodies of sometimes-fast-moving water is a bad idea.

Massey also noted that people naturally get dehydrated when they're out on the water, so alcohol's effects are greater, and impairment is more severe.

"Stick with water when you're on the water," Massey said. "Avoid alcohol altogether. It's an extremely bad mix."

Visit the Oregon State Marine Board's web site at www.boatoregon.com for more information.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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