Alcohol Use in Rhode Island Boaters

Researchers: Michael Mello, MD, MPH; Ted Nirenberg, PhD; Andrew Nathanson, MD; Amy Rosenthal, MPA, and Lynn Sweeney

Supported by funding from the University Emergency Medicine Foundation, this study examined the role of alcohol in boating in Rhode Island. A survey of 1,000 registered Rhode Island boat owners found that 33 percent of boat operators and 44 percent of boat passengers consumed alcohol while boating during the month the survey was conducted. Given that exposure to environmental stresses causes a fatigue called "boater's hypnosis" and that alcohol impairs the senses, it is likely that the combination creates even more danger.

Although most states have laws about boating while under the influence of alcohol, these are not well known to boaters. Only 20 states require boating safety education prior to operating a boat, with those programs generally addressing the alcohol use of boat operators, not passengers.

This study demonstrates the need for better education and enforcement of the laws on and dangers of boating and alcohol use-for both boat operators and passengers.