States Continue to Strengthen Boating Under the Influence Laws

Missouri

Missouri lawmakers want to limit blood alcohol levels on all state waterways.

Currently the law limits the amount of alcohol boat drivers can have on Missouri’s big lakes and the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

But there are no regulations on other waterways.

Legislators want to change that– possibly even requiring drivers licenses for boaters.

Rep. Steve Cookson says, “This bill would, basically, just make things more consistant…”

Major Roam/MHP Water Patrol Division says, “That excludes certain small bodies of water that none of us want to have enforceable, like your farm ponds or a very small lake…”

Missouri’s drunk boating law limits a drivers blood alcohol content to 0.o8.

The bill is still a work in progress.

Pennsylvania

Boaters convicted of causing a death while under the influence of alcohol or drugs would face increased penalties under legislation approved Tuesday by the House Game and Fisheries Committee. House Bill 78 would change the penalty of homicide by watercraft while under the influence from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, bringing it in line with the penalty for vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.

The measure now heads to the full House for consideration.

Georgia

This summer, boaters may need to be a little more mindful if they plan to drink on Lake Lanier. Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for people with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 to operate a boat or any other watercraft.

By lowering that level, House Bill 315 would make rules the same on water as on land.

“It makes it consistent with (driving under the influence) and changes the level from 0.1 to 0.08, which is the DUI level,” said Lauren Curry, public affairs coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Those two things have been inconsistent now for several years.”

Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver of the Department of Natural Resources said laws for boating under the influence have traditionally lagged behind.

“It was 0.12 to when I started my career,” Weaver said. “Federal guidelines forced driving under the influence down. Ours just never followed suit.”

Weaver said it would be much simpler for everyone if the bill becomes law.

“The simpler you can make rules and regulations, the fewer differences, the better for enforcement officers and the better for the public to understand,” Weaver said. “Of course our main goal was to get in line with DUI limits. It’s just to standardize.”

Currently, there are no other changes proposed in the bill.

“I think right now it’s in the very early stages of the legislative process,” Curry said. “Bills can go through many changes. But right now all this bill does is change that level.”

Rep. Doug Collins R-Gainesville, said it makes sense to standardize the legal alcohol limit.

“People don’t need to be boating and driving just like they don’t need to be drinking and driving,” Collins said.

Weaver said challenges on the water are different from those on the road.

“There’s no traffic lanes or traffic signals or directional devices out on the water way,” Weaver said. “You’ve got heat, noise, waves, things that divide your attention. You’ve got boats coming in all different directions, so you really have to be very observant.”

Boating under the influence is a misdemeanor crime that carries a punishment of up to a $1,000 fine or a year in jail.  Between 2007 and 2010, there were 155 BUIs on Lake Lanier.

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Filed under Boat Operation, Boating News, Boating Safety, Lake Boating, Sailing News, Uncategorized

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