drunk driving boat

It doesn’t matter what you’re driving—car, truck, motorcycle, ATV, aircraft, or boat—if you’ve been drinking, you shouldn’t be driving.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens every day: someone who’s had a bit too much gets behind the wheel. When you move this scenario to one of our gorgeous Phoenix-area lakes, it can turn a relaxing day out with friends into a weekend full of tragedy.

What Would You Do?

Imagine you’ve spent the day out on your boat in the party cove at Lake Pleasant. You and a hundred other fun-seeking folks have docked together throughout the day, taking turns with the paddleboat, jet skis, and swimming.

You’ve all enjoyed your fair share of alcohol that seems to be flowing as smoothly as the waves. But the sun is setting, so it’s time to turn back to shore and head home.

You’re smart enough to recognize that just like your car, you need a designated driver to get your boat back to the dock. But one of the other boats operators on the lake wasn’t so smart, it’s not like they’re worrying about police hiding and red lights out on the water.

The next thing you know a dark shape is coming towards your boat too fast for your designated driver to get out of the way. With a loud thud, their boat hits the side of yours, doing damage to the boat and injuring one of your guests in the process.

Whether on Land or in Water, Drunk Driving Rules Apply

In the state of Arizona, if someone is operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, they are driving under the influence (DUI, referred to as operating under the influence—OUI—when in a boat).

Just as with a DUI, they can be charged with aggravated OUI, which is a much more serious offense. This can occur if they:

  • Are convicted of three OUIs within 84 months.
  • Have a passenger on their boat who is younger than 15 years of age and they recklessly endanger the minor, have a prior OUI conviction, or have a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher.
  • Have a blood alcohol level of .15 to .19 (extreme OUI) or .20 or higher (super extreme OUI).

What to do

If you’ve been involved in a boating accident with a drunk driver here’s what you need to know.

Immediately contact the authorities, especially if there has been an injury during the accident. The most important thing is to get medical attention to ensure that any injuries are treated right away.

Next, either you or someone on your boat should begin documenting the circumstances right away. Get the information about the other boat and photographs as well. These may be critical pieces of information later when you need to file a claim against the other boat operator.

Law enforcement jurisdiction on the waterways can be a little different that you’d expect. Typically Arizona Game and Fish are responsible for policing the waterways but tribal police may be involved if your incident occurs on water with native sovereignty.

Your best strategy is to make sure that you provide a complete accounting of the events to the authorities that respond to the call for help and make sure you get a copy of the report and take note of everyone who was on the boat as witnesses for later.

Officials are out on the lakes year during the busiest boating months: March through September. Remember, they are there to help you make smart choices and keep everyone on the lake safe.

Protect Your Rights

Just as though a drunk driver of a car hit you, you need to get legal representation right away.

Dealing with multiple jurisdictions and whether or not they have adequate insurance on boat can be a nightmare tangle that you want to avoid handling on your own.

The team at Silkman Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyer has experience handling these issues and we’ll make sure that even if someone ruined your good time at the lake by being irresponsible, that you’ll still get the outcome you deserve in the end.

Contact us today or call Silkman Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyer at 602.535.5899 for a free case review.

Author: Alex Silkman

Alex Silkman is the founder and managing member of Silkman Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyer. He focuses exclusively on personal injury and wrongful death cases, with the goal of getting truly just results for accident victims and their families.