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California tries to enforce stricter laws to fight drunk boating

Dale Gribow March 6, 2015

With spring just around the corner, many Californians will be enjoying time on their boats. Driving under the influence is constantly in the news, but what about boating under the influence? While California has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, many believe that there is not enough focus on boating safety issues.

Over 4,000 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2013, which lead to the deaths of nearly 600 people. Out of the accidents where the primary cause was known, alcohol was the leading factor in 16% of deaths. When the accidents were caused by operator error, alcohol and drugs were a factor in about one-third of the deaths.

Marin assemblymember Marc Levine recently introduced brand new legislation, AB 539, which is focused on improving state boating laws. The new bill will permit law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to administer a blood test on anyone suspected of operating a boat under the influence. The bill will expand on SB 717, which allowed law enforcement to test motorists suspected of DUIs, regardless of whether the motorist submits to the test. By giving law enforcement this authority, both boaters and swimmers will be better protected.

It is the hope that with stricter DUI laws in place impacting both boaters and drivers, people will be less likely to operate their vehicles while under the influence. However, the reality is that some drivers and boat operators will still make that devastating mistake. Those who are found guilty of driving or operating a boat under the influence should be prepared for serious penalties including fines, license suspension and even jail time.