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As spring is approaching, it is imperative for North Carolina boaters to be aware that the state legislature enacted tougher drunk boating laws in the state in 2016. 

Last summer, the state enacted a new laws that increases drunk boating penalties for those who are convicted of the crime. Now the penalties will be similar to DWI penalties.


The new drunk boating law was named for a 17 year old named Sheyenne Marshall who was killed on North Carolina’s Lake Norman last year by an intoxicated boater. It was approved unanimously by the General Assembly and signed into law immediately by the governor. The law took effect on Dec. 1, 2016.

The new North Carolina drunk boating law makes it a felony to kill or seriously injure someone when you are driving a boat under the influence. The previous state law made the crime only a misdemeanor with a $250 fine.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) noted when the law passed that the issue of drunken boating in North Carolina can be made worse when boaters actually leave the water. Towing a big boat while intoxicated could lead to more deadly accidents.

The state legislature hopes that the increased penalties for BUI will help to reduce the number of fatalities as summer approaches in the state.

Our View

In 2015, the US Coast Guard reported that there were 626 deaths in the United States due to recreational boating accidents. The Coast Guard determined that alcohol use was the top contributing factor to deadly boating accidents; it was the top factor in more than 100 of the boating accident deaths that year.

Other leading factors for boating accidents were operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed. Boating accidents are on the upswing, with 560 deaths in 2013, 610 in 2014, and 626 in 2015. 

Our personal injury attorneys in North Carolina certainly hope that people who are driving both automobiles and boats will pay close attention to safety matters, and we hope that no one will be driving or boating under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving accidents that occur either in a car or in a boat cause far too much devastation in our community each year.

Drunk drivers end up getting sent to jail and heavily fined for driving drunk. If their foolish actions result in the death of another person, they also can face a devastating wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit. Many wrongful death lawsuits, if successful, can net the grieving family a very large settlement of  $1 million or more. 

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