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Our View: Bill targets drunk boaters

Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Should drunken motorboat operators continue to get away with a slap on the wrist if they get caught?

Or should sharper teeth be added to the law to curb their enthusiasm for tipsy boating?

State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, and Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican, favors the latter approach.

A bill sponsored by Morrison and Althoff, which passed the Illinois Senate on Thursday, 54-0, certainly would give pause to motorboat operators statewide, if it becomes law.

The Boating Under the Influence bill would authorize the Secretary of State’s Office to suspend a person’s driver’s license if that individual is found to be operating a motorboat while intoxicated.

A blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher would indicate intoxication, the same level as is applied to vehicular drivers.

Piloting a boat while under the influence of drugs or other intoxicating compounds would also put operators in jeopardy of having their motor vehicle driver’s licenses suspended.

The bill received “yes” votes from three area state senators: Althoff; Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington; and Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles.

With the Fox River and the Chain O’ Lakes in our region, boating safety is a constant concern, particularly now as warmer weather approaches.

Some people may believe the bill to toughen penalties for drunken motorboat piloting is a stretch. After all, the offense takes place on the water, not on roadways. Why suspend driving privileges on land for something that didn’t happen there?

We don’t buy that argument.

Boats are required to be licensed by the state. Drunken motorboat operation occurs on state-owned waterways. Extending the punishment for a moving violation on water to the operation of motor vehicles on land provides a sensible incentive for boat operators to stay sober.

We note that operators of boats with no motors would not be subject to the harsher penalties. Neither would passengers on recreational boats, however the boats are powered.

The bill will now be considered by the Illinois House. We hope its members show the same wisdom as their Senate colleagues.

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