The Union Recorder

May 15, 2013

Joint enforcement campaign warns boaters and drivers

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — After a recent Lake Lanier boating under the influence (BUI) related accident that killed two brothers, Ga. Gov. Nathan Deal vowed to lower the permitted boating blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from .10 to .08 for a BUI conviction. The change takes effect Wednesday, leveling the enforcement playing field on the state’s roads and waterways.

As part of a seven-site tour of Georgia’s most popular boating destinations, leaders from the Georgia State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) flew into Sinclair Marina on Tuesday’s final press stop.

Boating is a safe and enjoyable pastime as long as people obey the rules and stay alert, according to Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Col. Eddie Henderson.

“Over the years, far too many tragic boating incidents have occurred relating to someone boating under the influence of alcohol,” Henderson said Tuesday. “Beginning tomorrow, Gov. Deal and the legislature are sending a strong message to anyone who operates on our waterways.” 

DNR Rangers will educate boaters on the new change, while strictly enforcing the .08 BAC and increased penalties for boaters convicted of BUI.

Officials kicked off the tour on the 25th anniversary of a Carrollton, Ky. bus crash that killed 27 people and injured 34. The crash, caused by a wrong-way drunk driver, was the deadliest attributed to drunk driving in United States history.

“Because of crashes like that we’ve made drunk driving an unacceptable behavior on our roads. We are going to join hands with our DNR partners,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said. “Let the message go out that drunk driving is not acceptable on the roads or the waterways.”

As the new BAC limit for boaters begins, DNR and other state law enforcement officials open “100 Days of Summer Heat” from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The annual summer campaign targets motorist and boaters under the influence.

Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety Col. Mark McDonough said the equal enforcement playing field should not be lost on the public. The GSP leader said DUIs account for a third of all traffic fatalities.

DNR Rangers and State Troopers mean serious business this summer. McDonough said the open lake expanses make the alcohol issue just as, or more important, than roadway settings.

“Alcohol impairs the senses of the individual. We all come to the lake to have fun,” McDonough said. “Part of our culture is to drink a cold one while we do it, but it’s unacceptable to do that and operate a boat.”

Last year, the Sinclair region tallied 13 total BUIs. One is too many according to state agencies.

With Memorial Day coming soon, Blackwood wants this to be the safest summer ever.

“We want you to go enjoy visiting beautiful places like this in our state, but we want you to come home safely.”

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