When it comes to Texans on the water, there’s nothing quite as important as keeping boating as safe as it is fun. When it comes to drinking and boating, Lone Star boaters are all about making the right choices.

You probably would guess, however, that — just like with driving a car — there are laws, rules and regulations around having alcohol on or around a boat. Alcohol obviously has some huge effects that can be magnified around sun or water, and since intoxication is a huge factor in fatal boating accidents, it makes sense as to why. In Texas, there are laws in place meant to keep every boater, swimmer and passenger safe and having fun on the water… and for good reason. Here’s everything you need to know when it comes to drinking alcohol (or being under the influence of drugs) on Texas waters.

Can I drink on a boat in Texas?

In the Lone Star State, it is illegal to operate a boat if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, no matter whether you’re steering a motorboat or paddling a canoe. In Texas, being under the influence of alcohol can go both ways: you can appear to be affected by alcohol usage, or you can have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08% or greater. This number is fairly consistent across the United States, and goes for driving cars in Texas, too.

The laws aren’t quite the same when it comes to a boat (ex: open container laws don’t exist on Texas boats), but the level of intoxication is the same. If you operate a boat while being intoxicated, you can face big fines, a loss of license and even jail time. While you can enjoy alcohol and drink on boats in Texas, you may not become intoxicated as an operator. As a passenger, you should enjoy alcohol responsibly… regardless of whether or not you’re driving the boat.

What are the penalties/fines for drinking and boating in Texas?

In Texas, you may get a BWI — or a Boating While Intoxicated — if you either appear to be impaired by alcohol or if you are found to have a BAC of .08% or greater. Those who are given a BWI can face big penalties, and can receive a jail sentence of up to 180 days along with a fine of up to $2,000 at the first offense. 

In Texas, boaters who are given a BWI may also face loss of both of their licenses… boating licenses and driver’s licenses. The Lone Star State takes drinking while boating seriously, with penalties including:

  • BWI first offense: Up to $2,000 fine and/or up to 180 days in jail
  • BWI second offense: Up to $4,000 fine and/or up to 365 days in jail
  • BWI third offense: Up to $10,000 fine and/or up to 2-10 years in jail

When can I drink on a boat in Texas?

As a Texas boater, you are allowed to drink responsibly on your boat. However, boat operators may not become intoxicated in any circumstance.

The effects of alcohol

Drinking while boating can cause serious consequences, no matter where you are. However, Texas tends to get wildly hot and bright… which quickly and majorly magnifies alcoholic effects, especially when mixed with sweaty fun and the spray and reflection of water. While we love having fun on the boat, we always recommend keeping drinking to a minimum on the water, since drinking can cause:

  • Less concentration, worse judgment and slower processing times
  • Slower reaction and response
  • Reduced motor skills, in and out of the water
  • Accelerated hypothermia
  • A lack of ability to distinguish between good and bad decisions

Alcohol-related boating instances in Texas

We understand that drinking and boating might seem like a fun thing to do: but it can also be a wildly dangerous activity. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department shows that alcohol can be a factor in almost half of boating accidents — meaning that at least half of all boating accidents could have been prevented. 

With over 580,000 registered boats in the state, there’s no question that boating safety has to be a primary focus in Texas.

What about being under the influence of drugs on Texas waters? 

In Texas, it is illegal to operate any boat under the influence of drugs. Just like with alcohol, drugs cause increased accidents, poorer judgement and lower reaction time.

What else do I need to know about drinking, drugs and boating in Texas?

Over at BOATsmart!, our biggest mission is promoting safety and fun out on the boat. When drugs and alcohol start getting mixed in, boating instantly becomes more dangerous for everyone from the operators to the passengers to the passerby. That’s where boating safety comes in — and In Texas, boating safety is key to Lone Star State summer fun. Texas boaters born on or after September 1, 1993, need to take a boating safety course and obtain a boating license… and all Texas boaters are encouraged to. When it comes to boating in Texas, BOATsmart!’s boating safety course is the number one choice for those looking to boat safely while still having fun. With curriculum geared towards engaging content, our 100% narrated and animated course is key for Texas boaters with an eye for safety.