ATLANTA - Boating safety was a key component in Governor Nathan Deal's State of the State address last month; this week, lawmakers representing areas around Lake Lanier introduced the legislation the governor has wanted.
State Senator Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, introduced Senate Bill 136, designed specifically to increase boating safety on Georgia's lakes and other waterways. The bill is called the 'Kile Glover Boat Education Law' and 'Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law,' named for the victims of two deadly accidents last summer on Lake Lanier.
Miller said a key component of the legislation brings BUI levels in line with DUI levels, making it illegal to operate watercraft with a blood alcohol level of more than .08. The current level for BUI is .10.
"The U.S. Coast Guard attributes over 50% of all boating fatalities each year to alcohol," said Miller. "That statistic also holds true in Georgia."
Miller said the Department of Natural Resources also worked closely with area lawmakers to develop the legislation, so one component of the bill lowers the limit for hunting under the influence to .08 from .10.
He says another key part of the proposed law involves vessel operation. Anyone between the ages of 12-15 would be allowed to operate personal watercraft with adult supervision.
"Also, if you're renting a personal watercraft or a boat, it provides for a brief educational component [to learn] basic operating procedures [of the craft]," said Miller. "It also provides for boater education for young people born after January 1, 1998."
Miller also said lifejacket laws will change so Georgia laws are in line with U.S. Coast Guard laws.
So far, he said he has heard nothing but positive comments about the legislation and feels certain it will pass easily.
"There have been questions, of course, there always will be. But the prospect of it passing, particularly in light of the tragic accidents that occurred on Lake Lanier this past year, make this legislation even more timely."