This was the first Seafair event that was held since new boating under the influence laws took effect in Washington back on July 28. Those included the designation of BUI as a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Also, law enforcement officials were given the power to compel boat operators to submit to a breath test to detect the presence of alcohol, and those who refused were hit with a fine of $2,050. As with driving on the roads, the legal intoxication level for boat operators is a blood alcohol content of .08.
That said, there appeared to be a significant drop in the number of BUIs issued during Seafair. Preliminary numbers released by Washington State Patrol indicate that only 34 BUI arrests were made this past weekend on the lake. That's the lowest total over the previous six IBE campaigns conducted during Seafair, and a drop of 44% from last year's total arrest figures.
However, it's unclear that the new laws were the reason for the plunge in BUIs. Officials agree that attendance numbers at 2013 Seafair were much lower than in years past. This is supported by the fact that only 473 vessels were contacted by authorities this year, which is almost 32% less than last year's total. So a case can be made that there were simply fewer boats on the water in 2013 than in previous years.