Ah, spring has sprung! The time of year when many Long Islanders begin getting the old boat ready for months of fluke and striper fishing, water skiing, and partying on the water with friends.

It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn a little about New York’s Boating While Intoxicated laws before filling that cooler with beer.

Section 49-a of the New York Navigation Law is New York’s “BWI” Statute.

Not long ago, Boating while Intoxicated laws were more lenient than those for driving while intoxicated. ┬áThat has changed over the past ten years. Now, fines and jail sentences have been increased, and both Nassau and Suffolk County have adopted more stringent plea bargaining guidelines. Convictions will also be a part of a convicted boater’s motor vehicle driving record, resulting in higher auto insurance premiums.

The Guy Kyler Act has also become law in New York. This statute requires license suspensions of motorists convicted of boating while intoxicated, and boaters convicted of driving while intoxicated. You can read the text of the act and learn about Guy Kyler here.

As if that weren’t enough, ┬áCounty police and the Coast Guard are increasing patrols to find and arrest intoxicated boaters.

The only sensible course of action seems to be leaving the beer at home, or finding a reliable designated captain. That advice was given by state Senator John Flanagan when he announced the tougher laws in 2006:

“Boating while intoxicated is not a harmless activity and now it will be treated in the serious manner it needs to be. The message is clear and it should be easy to understand – drive a boat drunk and you will face stiff fines and imprisonment. Be smart, designate a driver whether in your car or on the water and be safe,” concluded Senator Flanagan.”

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