According to The Associated Press, “Senate Bill 136 would set the limit at .08 grams per 100 grams of blood (.08 percent) where it already stands for anyone operating a motor vehicle on Georgia roads. The sportsmen’s limit is currently .10 grams, where it has remained in the years since lawmakers adopted tougher DUI laws for motorists.
“The bill cleared the House with little opposition. Because of changes in the lower chamber, the measure now must go back to the Senate for further consideration, but it is expected to pass easily and head to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.”
Conservation Sgt. Mike Barr with Georgia Department of Natural Resources said the change will hopefully make Allatoona Lake a safer place to visit once the proposal becomes law.
“One of the issues, and the legislators addressed this with the new law, is DUI has been at that level for some time, yet boating under the influence hasn’t changed, so technically, we could stop somebody who may have been under the influence on the lake and let them go because they were not at a specific level, but then they could get in their car, crank it up and drive down the road, leaving the lake, and be busted for DUI,” Barr said.
He said the lake sees nearly 7 million visitors during the summer months, and the DNR makes about 20 arrests each year due to BUI.
“We’ve desperately tried to reduce that [number] and educate people on the dangers,” Barr said. “One of the significant dangers is ... [for example] if we have a car crash, we would call 911 on our cellphone and someone would be there in a matter of minutes to help. Unfortunately, on the lake with no road signs and people unfamiliar with exactly where they’re located, if somebody is boating under the influence and had a boat crash, it could be hours before emergency personnel are able to get there ...”
He added, “The [proposed] change in the BUI level will help us in the way that hopefully people will pay more attention to designating a sober operator on the lake. ... In addition, when you’re in a car or another air-conditioned environment during the summer, you don’t go through the physical changes, but if you’re out on the water and in the intense sunlight and you may be sweating, a lot of times that all adds up to the alcohol affecting you much quicker than it may in other environments.”
Barr said the DNR encourages Georgians to take advantage of the recreational opportunities available on the water, but also wants Georgians to play it safe.
“We’re not trying to stop people from having fun on the water, we certainly understand it’s a recreational environment, but we also see the downside when people have boat crashes and are killed, or drown because they tried to swim too far and are under the influence and those kinds of things,” Barr said. “We hope people will pay those things some serious attention.”
Deal highlighted the idea in his State of the State address in January. The governor said at the time that anyone who is too drunk to drive on the road is too drunk to drive on the water.
“Passing this bill will save lives in Georgia,” said House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey of Atlanta.
Various sections of the new law are named for Kile Glover of Atlanta and Griffin and Jake Prince of Buford, all victims who were killed in water accidents last year.
The 11-year-old Glover was killed while riding in a tube being pulled by a boat. The tube was struck by a water vessel being driven by Jeffrey Hubbard, a family friend who has since been indicted in the case by a Hall County grand jury on several charges related to the accident.
The Prince brothers — Griffin was 13; Jake was 9 — died after their family’s pontoon boat was struck by a boat being operated by Paul Bennett of Cumming. He faces a May trial date for homicide and boating under the influence.
For updates on the bill, read The Daily Tribune News.
— The Associated Press contributed to this article.