Boating and Alcohol


When summer comes, many Californians can be found on the lake or river enjoying the thrill of tubing, skiing, snorkeling, or jet skiing.  The hot summer months understandably also mean an increase in the consumption of ice cold beer, margaritas and daiquiris.  If anyone of us have been to a local dock at any nearby river or lake during the summer months we are familiar with the fact that nearly every boat on the water has an igloo full of such thirst quenching beverages. Let’s face it, boating and alcohol use is a common occurrence.

However, boat owners (and boat drivers) want to especially be cognizant of the use of alcohol while using the boat to engage in water sports.  While the consumption of alcohol while boating is common in the boat community, California case law does not rule favorably in this regard nor share the sentiment held in the boating community.

In the case of Freeman vs. Hale the court specifically ruled on alcohol use while boating and stated ‘the unfortunate fact that skiers simultaneously engage in both drinking and skiing does not mean that drinking is an activity that is ‘ordinarily’ involved in skiing.’  In the same case the court went on to say, ‘to the contrary, the absence of alcohol influence would promote vigorous participation in the sport by permitting skiers to ski to the best of their physical abilities.’

The CDC states that among adults, 70% of deaths that occurred during water recreation involved alcohol use.  The same reports indicates that in boating deaths, one in five deaths is alcohol related. The CDC statistics are related to incidents in the United States.

The writer of the book, Disability in the Global Sport Arena: A Sporting Chance, mentions similar statistics in Ontario.  The author mentions that water sports have the highest incident of alcohol consumption.  Fifty percent of water fatalities in Ontario were associated with the abuse of alcohol.

One reason for the high accident rate while boating and drinking can be associated with the way the body reacts to alcohol while engaged in outdoor water recreation. Boaters should remember that sun exposure complicates things.  Lack of hydration, heat, and sun exposure causes a persons balance, judgement and coordination to be impaired.  This can be complicated with the use of alcohol.

Additionally, due to the heat and subsequent dehydration, a person may drink more than usual while on the boat.  Greater  alcohol intake can cause some humans to exhibit overconfidence after consumption.  A person may take risks while engaging in water sports that they wouldn’t have taken had they not been under the influence.

Being injured while on a body of water or while engaged in a water recreational activity will likely require a personal injury attorney to represent you in your injury claim. Our office, The Edward A Smith Law Offices, has represented many injury victims from boating, jet ski and water skiing injury accidents.  If you or someone you love has been in a water recreational accident call us now at 916-921-6400.   You can find out more about our office by looking either Yelp or on Avvo, the attorney rating site.

Photo Attribution: By John Karakatsanis from Athens, Greece (Water sports) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



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