Coast Guard Station Charleston working to prevent boating under the influence

Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2023 at 7:50 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While many are enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend, members of Coast Guard Station Charleston are busy patrolling the waterways.

Lt. Tyler Pfenninger said this weekend that the Coast Guard is especially focusing on preventing boating under the influence. Boating under the influence is the number one way boaters get into distress in the water, he said.

“Everybody is having fun on the water, but it also is a big weekend where you see a lot of deaths and accidents across the United States and a lot of that is due to alcohol,” Pfenninger said.

Members of Coast Guard Station Charleston boarded several boats Monday afternoon, making sure they had a sober driver and all the required safety equipment on board.

The required safety equipment depends on the size of the boat, but Pfenninger said the list generally includes things like life jackets, a sound-producing device and a fire extinguisher.

If boarding officers have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the boat is intoxicated, they can administer a field sobriety test, he said. Some examples of reasonable suspicion include erratic driving, wake jumping or the smell of alcohol.

This process is very similar to being pulled over for a DUI on the roads, Pfenninger said. If the driver of the boat blows over a .08 they are considered intoxicated and can face a hefty fine or be criminally prosecuted.

“We know that mariners like to partake in alcohol while underway, and we know that the passengers are as well, so the key thing is to ensure there is a sober driver on board,” Pfenninger said.

Between the Charleston Police Department, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the Mount Pleasant Police Department, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Coast Guard, Pfenninger said there has been coverage on the water at all times this weekend.

“So far, the amount of BUIs we are seeing this weekend seems to be down from last year, and I think that is due to the Coast Guard and our local partners going out and preaching safety to the state of South Carolina,” Pfenninger said.