Alcohol levels for Georgia boaters could become stricter

Deaths prompt BUI law change
Capt. Mark Padgett, regional law enforcement supervisor for Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, discusses the dangers of boating under the influence.

 

A renewed push to strengthen Georgia’s laws against boating under the influence of alcohol is gaining widespread support.

Gov. Nathan Deal said last week that he supports lowering the blood alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08 – the standard in place for driving under the influence.

“If you are too drunk to drive an automobile, you are too drunk to drive a boat,” Deal said in his State of the State address.

The proposed change results in part from two fatal accidents at Lake Lanier last year.

Griffin Prince, 13, and his 9-year-old brother, Jake Prince, were killed in June when a center-console boat, whose driver was drunk, collided with their family’s pontoon boat.

Barely a month later, 11-year-old Kile Glover, the stepson of musician Usher, died after being struck by a personal watercraft.

The change, which would require legislative approval, would give authorities more discretion to make BUI cases, said Capt. Mark Padgett, the Region III law enforcement supervisor for Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s not a big change but it’s going to give people pause to think – that they don’t need to be drinking out there,” he said. Georgia is among just eight states with a less strict blood alcohol level for boaters than for drivers, he said.

An added danger of boating under the influence is that boaters often return to a landing at the end of the day, then drive home.

“Physically, if you’re out on the water four or five hours, in the sun and wind, it has definite effects,” Padgett said. “You add alcohol and you have a deadly cocktail.”

Last year, rangers made 180 BUI arrests statewide, with Lake Lanier accounting for 60 of those cases and Lake Allatoona yielding 28. Thurmond Lake had nine BUI arrests.

Georgia boating safety laws
Boating accident, arrest and fatalities for 2012

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