Published Sunday, March 03, 2013

Senate passes drunk-boating bill

By WALTER C. JONES

Morris News Service

ATLANTA – Increased traffic on Lake Lanier outside Atlanta prompted the Senate to unanimously pass tougher boating laws for the whole state Friday.

Boaters on Lake Oconee, Thurmond Lake, West Point Lake, the Savannah River and even the Saint Simons Sound will have to observe stricter alcohol limits, training requirements and life-jacket rules.

Senate Bill 136 came from the newly formed Lake Lanier legislative caucus which met in December with users of that lake who requested the legislation.

“I know that Senate Bill 136 is a statewide bill, but in particular Lake Lanier, because of the urbanization of the area and the encroachment in direct relationship with Atlanta, we have an over population, especially on holidays,” said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. “Unfortunately, we’ve had several instances of boating accidents and boating drownings.”

The bill is formally named for three child victims in those accidents. Kile Glover and Jake and Griffin Prince.

It would place age limits on those who can drive boats and requires boaters born after 1997 to take free, online training or submit to a briefing even to rent a vessel.

Because half of boating fatalities involve drinking, the bill would drop the legal blood-alcohol from .10 to 0.8 to match the level for driving an automobile drunk. For consistency, the bill also lowers the level for illegal hunting while drunk.

The sponsors of the bill, working with Gov. Nathan Deal, also expanded the age for mandatory life jackets on a moving boat from 10 to 13.

After the Senate vote, BoatUS announced it is seeking additional sites to offer its children’s life jackets as free loans.

“With a life-jacket-loaner site in your area, boating parents can borrow a properly fitting life jacket for the day or weekend at no cost,” association officials said. “If you operate a waterfront business, organization or government agency, you can help by applying to become a new loaner site for the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety & Clean Water’s Life Jacket Loaner Program for Kids.”

© 2011 The Newnan Times-Herald Inc., Newnan, Georgia. Any unauthorized use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.