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After a long winter in doors, we all look forward to the warm, sunny and longer days of summertime! This combination also brings with it barbeques, boating, pool parties and beach days. In this relaxed atmosphere, people often enjoy alcoholic beverages to cool down, relax and quench their thirst from the heat. In fact, about 40% of all the beer sold in the U.S. is purchased from June – September. What many people don’t realize is that hot temperatures and alcohol is actually a recipe for disaster.

Many of us imagine a perfect vacation day sitting by the pool with a cocktail. While you may think that drinking ice-cold beers while you are hanging out on the boat in the sun all day is keeping you hydrated, alcohol is a diuretic. It actually blocks the body’s ability to release a hormone necessary for water absorption. This results in increased urination, which in turn leads to dehydration. Some signs of dehydration include dry lips, headaches, weakness, nausea, dark colored urine, dizziness and muscle cramps.

Drinking alcoholic beverages in the heat contributes to a reduction in strength and power, making you weaker than usual. It also interferes with balance and coordination and reduces decision-making skills. People take more risks under the influence and do crazy things like jump in the water when a propeller is still spinning or dive in the ocean near rocks. In fact, the CDC reports that about 50% of all adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation are related to alcohol use and about 1/3 of all boating accidents involve alcohol. Individuals who have been drinking also tend to lose focus and children can more easily wander off unnoticed and get themselves in harms way.

Almost every state now enforces a legal limit of .08% blood alcohol concentration while operating boats as well as other motor vehicles. The affects of wind, sun, glare and motion on the water contributes to something called “boaters hypnosis”. It’s natural that someone who has been on board a boat for as little as 4 hours exhibits a slower reaction time. This fact in combination with alcohol creates a dangerous combination.  If found guilty of a BUI (boating under the influence), most states impose fines, revocation of the boating license, jail time and probation are considered and a recommendation of an alcohol education program can also be expected. 

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the Coast Guard to spread awareness about the dangers of drinking and boating. Operation Dry Water will take place the weekend prior to the Fourth of July, June 27-29 th to target and reduce BUI’s. More than 510 agencies across the nation are expected to participate in this joint effort to keep our waters safer.

So to stay safe this summer, turn to a cold glass of water when spending time out in the sun with family and friends.