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Boating under the influence is a crime

June 28, 2012

HARRISBURG, PA — As the busy July 4 holiday approaches, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding vacationers that boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious crime and a threat to public safety.

“Boating under the influence is no different than driving a car after someone’s been drinking,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “Alcohol impairs an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. For the safety of all individuals on the water, please do not operate your boat, jet ski, canoe or kayak if you’ve been drinking.”

So far this year, seven individuals have been charged with boating under the influence. PFBC waterways conservation officers arrested 62 individuals last year and 66 in 2010 for boating under the influence.

“Many boaters may not know that the threshold for BUI is the same as with motor vehicles – 0.08 percent,” said Jeff Bridi, assistant director of the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement. “Fish and Boat officers regularly patrol waterways. If officers suspect someone is boating under the influence, they can arrest the individual on the spot.”

Last year legislators strengthened the BUI law, elevating the charge of homicide by watercraft while operating under the influence from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. The change increases the minimum jail sentence from three years to at least six years.

Pennsylvania has more than 331,000 registered boats. Because the July 4 holiday falls mid-week, the PFBC expects many families and friends will take vacation during the week, leading to a higher volume of boating activity on the days leading up to the weekend. Bridi urges boaters to follow proper safety precautions.

“Boating is among the most popular of summer recreational activities and a lot of people like to anchor their boats and go swimming,” he said. “However, a day of fun and sun out on the water could end in serious injury or even death if boaters don't follow appropriate safety precautions.”
For more information on boating safety, visit