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Time for state to crack down on drunken boating

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Hot weather and a holiday weekend – what a perfect formula for spending time on the water.

But another factor can complicate the fun – alcohol.

If you drink, don’t drive. That holds true whether it’s behind the wheel of a vehicle on land or water.

And those who do should expect to pay a price for putting personal fun ahead of the safety of others.

A proposal making its way through the Illinois General Assembly would suspend for 3 months the driver’s license of a person caught operating a boat while intoxicated.

It’s a fair consequence for those who care so little about others. A blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is the legal limit for driving. At that point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, a person’s muscle coordination becomes poor, and judgment, self-control, reasoning and memory are impaired.

If that person gets behind the wheel of a car, it can lead to problems with speed control, cause impaired visual perception, and make it difficult for the driver to process information, such as seeing traffic signals in time.

And that’s on a flat roadway, with designated lanes and traffic signals. If an accident occurs, there’s a reasonable expectation that help can quickly arrive and other motorists could easily assist.

That scenario can be much worse when operating a boat instead of a vehicle. Boaters can face choppy water with few signals to obey. An accident in a waterway will take longer for authorities to reach, and you throw in the added risk of someone drowning while you wait for help to arrive.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, has a personal interest in sponsoring the legislation: Her nephew, Tony Borcia, was killed in July 2012 while riding an inner tube pulled by a boat on Petite Lake. When he fell off, he was struck by a boat operated by a Bartlett man who is now serving 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Although the effort started as something personal, Morrison said she hopes to change the culture, shifting how people view operating a boat under the influence. The measure will be discussed from 1 to 3 p.m. today at a public hearing at the Lake County Central Permit Facility in Libertyville.

Not everyone is a fan of the proposal – a common reaction when it comes to legislation that takes aim at people’s actions.

But our society always has placed limits when the personal behavior of one could negatively affect others. Asking a boater to operate his or her craft while sober is hardly asking too much.

Enjoy this coming holiday weekend on the water – responsibly.

 

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