The House on Wednesday voted to lower legal blood-alcohol limits for boaters in the wake of a series of deaths last summer on Lake Lanier.
Senate Bill 136 passed the House 146-17. It makes it a crime to pilot a boat with a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.08, the same limit for operating a motor vehicle on roadways.
The measure follows the deaths of three boys last summer. One instance, in which two boys died, involved a man alleged to have been boating while drunk.
The House made minor changes to the bill, so it must now return to the Senate.
Most states require the blood-alcohol content of a boat to be lower than Georgia’s 0.10. SB 136, sponsored by Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, would tighten rules about boating and increase the penalties for those caught boating drunk —- making it a felony if someone is convicted at least four times.
The bill also creates training requirements for younger boaters and would require anyone under 12 to wear a floatation device when a boat’s motor is engaged.
Rep. Chad Nimmer, R-Blackshear, the bill’s sponsor in the House, said SB 136 is an attempt to firm up “loose regulations.”
“What this bill does is propose a way to streamline and identify who is certified and qualified and properly educated to operate a vessel on these waterways we enjoy,” Nimmer said.
Boating under the influence in Georgia currently is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and possibly 12 months in jail.
Rep. Charles Gregory, R-Kennesaw, questioned the need to mandate who must wear life jackets, saying he believed he and his wife “are better suited to decide when my child should wear a life jacket.”
SB 136 also would lower from 0.10 to 0.08 the legal intoxication limit for hunters.