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Lake Regional Observes Trauma Month with Warnings about BUI

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May is National Trauma Awareness Month, and Lake Regional Health System is reminding everyone of the dangers of mixing boating and alcohol.

"Alcohol and boating are a dangerous, sometimes fatal, combination," said Mariah Swinker, R.N., the trauma nurse coordinator for Lake Regional. "Every summer, our Emergency Department employees see the grim consequences of boating under the influence."

The following facts from the U.S. Coast Guard provide good reminders about the dangers of combining boating and alcohol.

  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, and the use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.

  • The marine environment — motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray — accelerates a drinker's impairment. As a result, a boat operator is more likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink.

  • A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration. Passengers are also at greatly increased risk for injury and death — especially if they are also using alcohol. The increased risk results from alcohol's numerous physical effects, including:

    • Cognitive abilities and judgment deteriorate, making it harder to process information, assess situations and make good choices.

    • Physical performance is impaired — evidenced by balance problems, lack of coordination and a longer reaction time.

    • Vision is affected, including decreased peripheral vision, reduced depth perception, decreased night vision, poor focus and difficulty in distinguishing colors (particularly red and green).

    • Inner ear disturbances can make it impossible for a person who falls into the water to distinguish up from down.

    • Alcohol creates a physical sensation of warmth — which may prevent a person in cold water from getting out before hypothermia sets in.

  • The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms.

"Boating should be a time to have fun and make good memories, not regrets," Swinker said. "That's why during this Trauma Awareness Month, Lake Regional Emergency Department encourages boaters to be safe and sober on the water."

Lake Regional Health System's Emergency Department, a Level III Trauma Center and Level II Stroke Center, provides 24-hour emergency medical service and treats more than 36,000 patients annually. Visit to learn more.