The State of Illinois is cracking down on boaters operating a watercraft while intoxicated.
Standing at the site of a fatal boating accident that occurred one year ago, Governor Pat Quinn signed two bills into law on Sunday, July 21, 2013 to make Illinois waterways safer for boaters.
In July of 2012, Tony Borcia, a 10-year-old boy from north of Chicago, was tubing with his family when he was killed, Governor Quinn said.
“Suddenly a large speedboat piloted by a man impaired by alcohol and drugs bore down on Tony, resulting in this fatal tragedy,” said Governor Quinn. “We enact this law in Tony’s memory.”
The first bill signed into law Sunday requires that if a motorboat operator gets in an accident involving serious injury or death, he or she must consent to be tested for drugs and alcohol. If they do not consent to testing, exceed the legal blood-alcohol content limit, or test positive for drugs, they face having their Illinois driver’s license suspended. This law takes effect on January 1, 2014.
“Drinking and boating is every bit as dangerous as drinking and driving,” said sponsor of the bill, State Senator Julie Morrison.
Morrison said she hopes the new law will make boaters think twice about their alcohol consumption.
Over 100 boating-related accidents in Illinois were reported in 2012, according to a spokesperson from the Office of Governor Quinn, resulting in 77 were injuries and 17 fatalities. Alcohol was a factor in 13 of the accidents and five of the deaths.
The second bill signed into law Sunday is to strengthen Illinois’ Boat Registration and Safety Act regarding a boat’s carrying capacity. It clarifies that anyone being towed by a watercraft- a skier, tuber, etc.- is counted in a boat’s total number of passengers.
Also, the law adds flashing blue lights to the list of colored lights required for a watercraft to be designated an authorized emergency watercraft. Lastly, the law increases penalties on boat rental operators who do not properly equip the craft with life jackets, a fire extinguisher, or lighting. This law takes effect immediately.
“With summer in full swing and Illinois residents spending recreational time on the water, ensuring safe waterways is critical,” said sponsor of the bill, Representative Zalewski. “I look forward to working with law enforcement officials to keep our children, families and friends safe while they enjoy Illinois’ lakes and rivers.”