Cape Cod’s connection with the sea gives it a rich history with the boating industry. Inhabitants have a deep connection with boating as a result. Boating safety and the prevention of boating accidents have always been a major concern for many Cape Cod residents. Consequently, the ramifications of boating while intoxicated have been in the news of late. The South Coast Today reported that Cape Cod constituents have requested that a local Cape Cod politician reintroduce several bills to the Massachusetts House of Representatives that would strengthen the Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws.
The two bills, H1658 and H1659, aim to apply the same results for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI) as for operating a motor boat under the influence (BUI). Currently, Massachusetts has two separate statutes for a BUI and an OUI. Supporters of the new bills hope they will fix some perceived weaknesses of the laws. For example, a BUI is not listed on a motor vehicle record, and without pulling a criminal history it is hard to determine whether an individual has a BUI. Furthermore, there is no way to prevent an individual with multiple OUIs or BUIs from registering or operating a boat. In Massachusetts, a boat operator does not need a license to operate a boat, but they are required to register their vessels. There is nothing preventing someone with several BUI or OUI charges from purchasing and registering any number of boats.
This problem has been highlighted in some high profile BUI cases. For instance, during a 2009 Independence Day celebration, an intoxicated Cape Cod man steered his boat into a secured fireworks area. Authorities were able to stop the operator and charge him with a BUI. It surfaced in the press that the operator already had five convictions for drunk driving and seven more for operating a boat intoxicated. Astonishingly, he had been able to purchase and register the same boat he steered into the fireworks area. Massachusetts was able to prevent him from operating a car intoxicated as he had previously lost his driver’s license for life; however, there was nothing to prevent him from registering and driving his boat.
This incident and the concern of locals helped encourage the proposed legislation. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division, the use of alcohol is involved in about one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. Nationally, alcohol use is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents. In Massachusetts, 10 out of the 68 boating accidents were caused by alcohol and 5 out of 16 deaths were caused by alcohol, as reported by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division.
Some boat operators fail to follow safety procedures, abide by boating laws, or appreciate the dangers involved. Furthermore, not all laws are sufficiently strict. When people consume alcohol, their judgment becomes impaired, and they often take risks that can lead to accidents and injuries. Alcohol consumption can also affect an operator’s vision, coordination, and balance. Any type of boating accident can cause devastating injuries. When operators and passengers embark on their sea vessels, they shouldn’t have to worry about the intoxication of other operators. If you had a boating accident caused by another boat operator’s intoxication or negligence, and the accident resulted in injury to yourself or someone else, you may be able to recover money for your damages.
Local attorney, John C. Manoog III, has extensive experience handling boating accident cases for injured victims in Cape Cod. For a free initial consultation, call the office at 888-262-6664 or reach us by email. There is always someone available to talk to you about your case.
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