LAKE LANIER, Ga. — Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Tuesday tougher treatment of those in Georgia who operate boats while drunk and stricter rules for young boaters.
The measure lowers the maximum blood alcohol level for boaters and hunters from 0.10 to 0.08, to match the existing level for automobile drivers.
Deal chose a large marina on Lake Lanier, the state’s busiest recreational lake, as the site to sign Senate Bill 136, which sailed through the session of the General Assembly that ended last month.
Lanier, near metro Atlanta, was the lake with the most arrests last year for boating under the influence, 60, and the most injuries with 13, according to the Department of Natural Resources which patrols the state’s lakes. Another Atlanta-area lake, Allatoona, had the second-most BUIs with 28 and four injuries.
Lake Thurmond had nine BUIs and three injuries. Lake Hartwell had three BUIs and four injuries while Lake Oconee had six BUIs and four injuries. The DNR’s Brunswick region reported six BUIs and five injuries last year plus seven cases of drowning and one death.
“Far too many tragedies have occurred as a result of boating under the influence and inadequate boater education,” Deal said.
Part of the push for the legislation came from the deaths of brothers who were struck by boats operated by intoxicated operators.
“Last June, I vowed to work with the General Assembly to pass legislation in honor of Jake and Griffin Prince, who lost their lives last summer in a tragic accident. As I have said, if you are too drunk to drive an automobile, you are too drunk to drive a boat,” the governor said.
Another part of the bill raises the training requirement for young boaters, including those piloting jet skis. It was prompted by the death of Kile Glover, the ex-stepson of entertainer Usher.
The new law requires anyone born in 1998 or later to take an online safety course before driving a boat or personal watercraft. It also requires anyone on a moving boat who is 13 years old or younger to wear life jackets.