New boating laws aim to keep you safe on the water - WRBL

New boating laws aim to keep you safe on the water

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is changing a few laws for boaters. They're aiming to keep you safe, and sober, on the water.

After three boys were killed on Lake Lanier last year, lawmakers went to work drafting new bills to ramp up safety on the state's waterways. Now the governor has signed off on them just in time for boating season.

Under the new laws, you can be arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol if your blood alcohol content is over .08, the same as driving. The previous level was .10, but one local fisherman says drinking should be reserved for land.

"You have a lot of kids out here on jet skis, you have a lot of families in pontoon boats and stuff, and it's just no place to do it," he says.

Cpl. Mitch Oliver, a conservation ranger with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, says, "Out here because of the elements, the sun, dehydration, the motion of the water, not eating a bunch of times, we see that alcohol seems to affect them much quicker. Sometimes it even takes less alcohol to get them at a level of impairment."

Cpl. Oliver says safety precautions are even more important on the water because conditions are always changing. "With there not being lanes of traffic," he says, "you've got some people out here who have never had a safety course and they're under the understanding that the bigger boat has the right of way. We run across that all the time. 'I have the bigger boat so I choose which way I want to go,' and that's not the case."

Another new law requires anyone born in or after 1998 to take a boater education course before operating a water vessel.

Also, children under the age of 13 are now required to wear a life vest on moving boats.

Oliver recommends getting one that fits each child. He says, "Take time, spend the money. If you can afford gas to come out here and you've got a boat and you can afford the gas and the money to buy beer and ice, buy a life jacket that fits."

In Alabama the BAC limit is already .08 for boaters, but only kids under the age of eight are required to wear life vests on a moving boat.

The BUI law takes effect May 15.

The boater education law will be enforced starting next July.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.

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