Georgia governor to push for tighter boating, PWC safety laws

Publish Date: 
Jan 17, 2013

ATLANTA, Ga. - Gov. Nathan Deal is pushing legislation to bring boating laws into line with auto laws with regards to driving under the influence, require safety courses for boaters and require life jackets for boaters up to age 13, up from age 10.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) is a response to a boating accident last June that killed two boys when a boater who has been charged with being under the influence of alcohol hit the pontoon the boys were on. Miller is expected to introduce the bill on the floor of the Senate this week.

“The legislation is designed to address and prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future,” Deal told the Gainesville Times. “People recognize that this needs to be addressed.”

The proposed law would lower the legal blood alcohol limit for adults operating boats and personal watercraft from .10 to .08 – the same as for operating automobiles. Penalties would also closely follow those for DUIs so that offenders, especially repeat offenders, are escalated from a misdemeanor charge to a felony. Georgia is one of just eight states with a higher blood alcohol limit for boating than driving.

The legislation would require vessel operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, to complete a boater safety education course. Deal said courses would be available free of charge online. The education requirement would take effect in July 2014 to allow time to educate the public on the new rule.

Under existing Georgia law, youths between the ages of 12 and 15 are barred from operating a vessel over 16 feet in length but are allowed to operate a PWC, or a boat if it’s less than 16 feet, provided they’ve completed boater education or are accompanied by an adult.

In addition to the two boys killed on Lake Lanier last June, public attention accelerated when 11-year-old Kile Glover, stepson of musician Usher, died after he was run over by a PWC on the same lake.

Posted by Holly Wagner