The 4th of July, along with Memorial Day and Labor Day, typically account for more than one third of all boating related accidents and fatalities. Celebrate the holiday by boating sober. Not only is boating under the influence unsafe, it’s illegal.

Just like driving a car, it is against the law to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are convicted in the state of Tennessee, it will result in fines of up to $2,500 on the first offense, $2,500 on the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. A jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days may also be imposed for any conviction and operating privileges may be suspended from one to ten years. Additional federal penalties may also be charged.

In 2013, 10% of all boating accidents were a result of alcohol abuse. Of that 10%, there were 75 deaths and 187 injuries. Alcohol use was #1 contributing factor in all deaths from boating accidents. Alcohol mixed with wind and sun exposure is a dangerous combination. Boaters are exposed to sun and wind, which can be dehydrating and increases the effects of even small amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant; it slows the function of the central nervous system and alters a person’s perception, emotion, movement; vision and hearing. When under the influence of alcohol, people can experience loss of coordination, staggering, slurred speech, feeling of confusion and disorientation and a dramatically slowed reaction time – all of which are necessary to safely operate a watercraft.

For example, if you’re under the influence of alcohol, imagine if you fall in the water – because you’re intoxicated you lose vital coordination skills. It will become much harder to swim back to safety or grab on to a life preserver. The shock of the cold water can also add to cramping and the very real possibility of drowning.

When you choose to operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol you’re breaking the law and endangering yourself, your passengers and other boaters. Is it worth it?

Make this holiday weekend fun and safe. Boat sober.