Blood alcohol limit for boat operators must be reducedTwo of the most powerful Republican leaders in our state will offer much-needed legislation to crack down on boating under the influence.
Following two highly publicized boating incidents on Lake Lanier this summer, House Speaker David Ralston is joining Gov. Nathan Deal to lower the legal alcohol limit for boaters from .10 percent to .08 percent.
The lower limit is already the law for operating a vehicle on roads in our state. It seems to be a no-brainer to have the same limit for boat operators as we do for car, truck and SUV drivers.
We suspect lawmakers will act quickly to approve the legislation when they convene under the Gold Dome for the 2013 General Assembly session in January.
Even before lawmakers can change the alcohol limit, law enforcement agencies are increasing patrols to improve safety conditions.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division and Gwinnett County Police Department have launched a boating safety initiative, which will increase law enforcement presence on Lanier and help address issues such as boating under the influence.
“... Our two agencies have created an innovative way to increase the number of patrol boats and law enforcement officers on Lake Lanier,” said DNR’s Col. Eddie Henderson. “Police officers will be paired with rangers in DNR patrol boats. This will allow us to put more boats on the water year-round for high-traffic weekends, holidays and special events.”
Our lakes and waterways are very popular. Lake Lanier alone attracts 7.5 million visitors a year. Other lakes -- such as West Point Lake south of Newnan -- are very popular.
Even before the recent tragedies on Lanier, the DNR reported there had been 54 boating incidents this year. Twenty-two people were injured, and there were five deaths. The death total is now at least seven, with the recent fatal accident on Lanier.
It’s time lawmakers lower the blood alcohol limit on waterways, and it’s time law enforcement -- many already short-staffed -- look for innovative ways to expand law enforcement presence on our waterways. It’s in the best interest of the millions who take to the waters in our state.