Boating Under The Influence (BUI)

If you operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol and drugs it is not only unsafe—it's illegal. Washington state's Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats include kayaks, canoes, row boats and inflatable fishing rafts. 

You are responsible for the safety and well being of everyone on board. A responsible skipper will never operate under the influence or allow an intoxicated person operate the boat. Be sure to check any prescription and non-prescription drugs for any side effects that could impede your ability to be alert. 

Do everyone a favor, always designate a sober skipper. Take the pledge today!

State and local law enforcement agencies will join forces to conduct BUI emphasis patrols on waterways across Washington, from Memorial Day weekend through Aug. 19. 

ODW WA logo
Seafair BUI test (33)

 
Emphasis patrols will take place this summer during peak times on the following waterways.

  • May 27 & 28, at Crescent Bar on the Columbia River.
  • June 30 - July 2, statewide, for the national Operation Dry Water campaign.
  • July 4, at Lake Tapps in Pierce County.
  • July 28 & 29, at Kennewick/Pasco, on the Columbia River.
  • Aug. 3 - 6, on Lake Washington, in Seattle, for SeaFair.
  • Aug. 4 & 5, at Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River.
  • Aug. 18 & 19, Vancouver, on the Columbia River.
  1. BUI Dangers
  2. BUI Penalties
  3. BUI Fact Sheet


Operating a boat under the influence is not safe. 



Boating under the influence is arguably more dangerous than driving while impaired. Wind, sun, noise, motion and vibration can amplify the effects. Boats don’t have the same safety features as cars, such as airbags and seatbelts. When someone is involved in a car accident, they are not normally faced with the threat of drowning. Finally, the emergency response may not be nearly as quick on the water as on land.

You put yourself and others at risk. Operating a boat under the influence increases the likelihood of an accident and lowers the chance of survival after an accident. Boating under the influence affects...

  • Vision
    • Impairs the ability to see clearly and affects peripheral view and depth perception, increasing the chance of a tragic accident.
  • Balance & Coordination
    • Decreases balance and coordination, increasing the odds of falling overboard. 
    • Arm and leg coordination decreases, making it difficult to put on a life jacket and/or swim.
    • Lowers the concentration of blood going to the brain and muscles, contributing to muscle, heat and fluid loss, as well as reduced ability to hold breath.
  • Judgement
    • Impairs decision-making and gives a false sense of the situation.
    • Increases the likelihood of attempting tasks beyond a person’s ability and engaging in risky behaviors.
    • Affects the ability to take actions that prevent tragic accidents.
  • Reaction Time
    • Slows down reaction time, increasing the risk of collision or other types of accidents.
    • Suppresses airway-protection reflexes, making it more likely to inhale water when falling in or capsizing.