As summer rapidly approaches, boaters in Virginia are gearing up to get on the water. With fun and adventure often comes alcohol, and many people harbor illusions about the real dangers of boating under the influence (BUI). In fact, these behaviors can lead to significant injury and property damage, and even result in fatalities under certain circumstances.

According to the Coast Guard Compass, there are a number of common misconceptions regarding the dangers of boating while drinking. One such misconception involves the legal penalties if you are caught boating while intoxicated. While some posit that these penalties are not as serious as those levied on drunk drivers, in fact they can be just as severe. Boaters caught drunk on the water can be arrested, face fines and even lose their operator privileges. Additionally, your boat can be impounded if you are caught, which will entail paying a fee to have it returned.

There is also a belief that boats are specifically intended for the party lifestyle, which includes having a few drinks onboard. Although it’s true some boats are used mainly for recreation, that doesn’t mean the operator can forgo responsibility. It’s vital to keep all passengers safe when boating, and being inebriated will prevent an operator from living up to his or her duty.

The danger regarding BUIs is another issue that’s often misunderstood. Some believe that it’s not as dangerous to operate a vessel under the influence as it would to operate a motor vehicle, but this is simply not the case. In fact, operating a boat is often more difficult, as there are far more considerations to be made than when driving a car.