BUI Law Takes Effect for any boat, 18 day crackdown began Friday
Changes to Colorado’s law on boating under the influence have gone into effect, decreasing the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) and expanding the reach of the law to operators of any waterborne vessel. Previously, the BUI law applied only to operators of motorboats or sailboats whose BAC was .10 or above. Senate Bill (SB) 08-159 now reduces the BAC at which persons operating or in control of a waterborne vessel are considered under the influence to .08, making it consistent with the legal limit for motor vehicle operators on Colorado roadways. The new BUI law applies to any water vessel powered by motor, paddle and oar, such as jet skis, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and rafts.
“Drinking alcohol on the water can be just as dangerous as on land. The impacts of alcohol are naturally accelerated by marine factors, such as sun, wind, motion and spray, increasing the risk of accidents, capsizing or falling overboard,” said Rick Storm, Chief of Law Enforcement for Colorado State Parks. “Nationally, nearly one-third of fatal boating accidents are alcohol-related. No matter what the recreational vessel, take the appropriate steps to find a sober operator or avoid drinking before heading out on the water.”
Colorado State Park Rangers and many counties’ peace officers will enforce the BUI law on Colorado reservoirs, lakes and rivers. Operators who show signs of being intoxicated may be asked by peace officers to perform voluntary maneuvers to determine if it is safe for them to continue on the water. In addition, any boat operator in Colorado is deemed to consent to a blood, saliva, urine or breath test to determine alcohol or drug content.
“Safe operation of watercraft is a personal responsibility with legal implications unsafe behavior. This new BUI regulation creates accountability for all recreational users on Colorado waterways,” said Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder), lead sponsor of SB 159. Senator Tupa is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and is well aware of the need for this stronger, consistent legislation. “Additionally, Colorado is now among 38 states that have adopted a BAC limit of .08 for watercraft, bringing the law up-to-date with our existing DUI regulation.” Senator Dan Gibbs
(D-Silverthorne), and Representative Christine Scanlon (D-Dillon) cosponsored the bill in the Legislature, pointing to popular boating spots in their Districts.
Penalties for a BUI conviction have not changed. A vessel operator found to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or controlled substances faces a misdemeanor charge, between five days and one year in prison, fines between $200 and $1,000, loss of privilege to operate a vessel for three months and up to 96 hours of community service.
The new law comes as statewide law enforcement agencies step up DUI enforcement on the state’s roadways as well. Agencies across the state are gearing up to take part in a nationwide DUI crackdown, “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest°± organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The 18-day enforcement period begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15 and ends after Labor Day at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2.
“This is a busy summer for the state’s law enforcement, however we remain focused on stopping impaired drivers before they hurt themselves or others,” said Colonel Mark Trostel, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “It’s time that people get the message that alcohol can be deadly when mixed with operating a vehicle on the road or a vessel in the water. To avoid an arrest, or worse, the simple solution is not to drive or operate any vehicle while impaired.”
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