State Considers Tougher Laws for Drunk Recreational Drivers
Written by WLNS TV   
Thursday, 28 April 2005 03:03
If you mix boating with booze,some State leaders say you should face tougher penalties. Lawmakers debate legislation that would make penalties more severe for those who drive boats under the influence of alcohol.

The current laws say boat drivers can be cited for a blood alcohol level of .1 and those found guilty on a 1st offense lose their boating license for?6 months. Lawmakers want to make both the statutes and the penalties more severe. They want to reduce the blood alcohol level to .08 to bring it into line with changes to drunk driving laws. They also want to double the penalties,so that violators lose their boating license for at least a year. Stricter alcohol laws on the water-it's something boaters at Lake Lansing say is long overdue.

Chris Dolan, boater: "People are just not as careful as they need to be."

Those on Lake Lansing say they know the toll alcohol can take. They say a boater was killed in an alcohol-related accident a couple years ago. Since then, they say they've tried to raise awareness of the problem.

Chris Dolan: "This is just another way to get out the word that this is something we need to be patrolling ourselves."

And while patrols are out,boaters say some on the water feel immune from the dangers of alcohol.

Claudia Kerbawy, Boater: "They figure they're on the water, if something goes wrong, the landing area is soft."

But they say that logic is faulty. In a state where boating is growingand more than a million boats are now registered,combine alcohol with heavy traffic and things can go wrong in a hurry.

Claudia Kerbawy: "Keeping track of all vehicles can get a little dicey, and if you're impaired, it's going to be a problem."

Alcohol accounts for 12% of all boating accidents,some minor, but others on Lake Lansing serve as a reminder of how a good time can turn deadly in a hurry.

Claudia Kerbawy: "It makes it very sad. Two families are very much effected by this. They just came out for a good time and it shows people just need to be responsible."

There were 168 boating accidents on the water last year,26 of those accidents ended in fatalities.? Those numbers are down from years past.? Those numbers may be down,but State leaders want to see the number of fatalities fall even further. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources works with law enforcement to patrol a million boats on 35,000 miles of water. They say the potential changes would help the push to keep people from mixing boating and booze.

Lt. Creig Grey, DNR?law enforcement: "One fatality is too many, if you save?1 person's life, it is a big deal."

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