Public Health in Emergency Medicine| Volume 46, ISSUE 4, P567-571, April 2014

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Knowledge of Alcohol Impairment in Boaters in Southern Illinois



      Alcohol is the leading contributor to boating deaths. Earlier literature estimates that 30−40% of people drink alcohol while boating.


      The objective of this study was to directly approach boaters at the dock to assess the prevalence of alcohol consumption while boating, as well as their knowledge of alcohol impairment.


      This was a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of boaters aged 21 years and older at Illinois lakes and rivers during July 2011. Participants completed a survey of alcohol use and impaired boating knowledge consisting of six multiple-choice questions. A χ2 analysis was used to assess knowledge differences by demographic variables.


      Two hundred and ten people participated. Less than one fourth of participants correctly answered 4 of the 5 knowledge questions. Eighty-four percent correctly reported the watercraft blood alcohol legal limit. Eighty-one percent erroneously believed that it was more dangerous for the driver to be intoxicated than the passenger. There were no differences in knowledge by sex, education, boat ownership, or driver status. Seventy-six percent admitted to drinking alcohol while boating. Younger participants (aged 21 to 40 years) were significantly more likely to report drinking while boating compared with older participants (p < 0.05).


      A majority of participants imbibe while boating and with only a rudimentary understanding of the dangers. Designated drivers (for boating) campaigns might falsely imply imbibing-passenger safety. Public health officials should readdress the dangers of passenger drinking, especially with the younger age group, to help decrease alcohol-related morbidity and mortality.


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