On his way home, he ran over a man on a motor scooter, killing him in the process.
This past summer, brothers Jake and Griffin Price died on Lake Lanier when their watercraft was struck by an intoxicated boater.
Stories like these are tragically familiar.
Even though we are familiar with drunken motor vehicle driving and its repercussions, many people are strikingly unaware about the consequences of drunk boating.
Safe driving means using common sense, but somewhere along the way there appears to be a disconnect when it comes to safe boating.
The truth is, there is no real difference between operating a boat and a car while under the influence, except that there is a higher acceptable legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for boating.
Georgia is one of only eight states where it is still legal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of .10.
Senate Bill 136 was introduced by state Sen. Butch Miller, with the purpose of addressing current boating safety issues on Georgia lakes and waterways. This legislation is also known as the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law” and “Jake and Griffin Price BUI Law,” after the victims of two boating accidents last year
Recently the bill passed the Senate and is up for House consideration. If passed by both houses, and signed by the governor, SB 136 would lower the current BUI level from .10 to .08, making it consistent with the current DUI level for the operation of motor vehicles.
I’m not doctor, and I don’t know how much of a difference there is between the intoxication levels of .08 BAC and .10, but there needs to be consistency with our DUI/BUI laws. Drivers need to be capable of safely operating their vehicles and boats. What happens to a boat operator who leaves the marina with a higher alcohol level (currently 1.0 for boaters) and then proceeds to drive his car or truck on Georgia roads above the .08 level for motor vehicle drivers?
The bill would also require boat and watercraft renters to take a safety course to learn about the basic operation of these very heavy means of transportation, something we obviously already extensively require of expectant drivers.
There is a current misconception that it is somehow less dangerous to maneuver boats since they are on the water. The problem with that logic is that alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination exactly the same no matter where you are. If anything, alcohol is even more dangerous on water.
According to the U.S. coast guard, all the elements of being out on the water — motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray — accelerate a drinker’s impairment.
Not only that, but recreational boaters only average about 110 hours on the water per year, meaning they don’t have nearly the same experience operating a watercraft that they do a car.
At least in the event of a car wreck there is a chance of walking away. Boaters are faced with a daunting vastness of open water, something that’s even more difficult to overcome when alcohol is involved.
We made a little progress in reducing boating casualties, but there is a reason boating safety was a key point in Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State Address — some progress is not enough, we need more.
Let’s commend Sen. Miller for his leadership on this issue and urge the House to pass SB 136, and make Georgia waters a safer place for our families this summer and future summers.
Bob Cucchi is executive director of TEAM Georgia, a safe and sober driving coalition comprised of concerned businesses, public safety officials and members of Atlanta’s sporting teams. For more information, contact TEAM Georgia at 478-957-8252 or visit www.teamgeorgia.net.