An emotional Gov. Nathan Deal signed a measure into law Tuesday that lowers the blood-alcohol limit for boaters and requires new water safety training. Senate Bill 136 was prompted by tragedies. The deaths of three boys in boating accidents last summer became a rallying point for lawmakers and Deal, who made it one of his priorities.
The law makes it a crime for a person to pilot a boat if his blood-alcohol content is 0.08 or higher. That’s the limit that applies for driving a car. The lower alcohol limit would also apply to hunters.
Before, the blood-alcohol limit for those driving boats and for hunters had been .10.
“If you’re too drunk to drive a car, you’re too drunk to drive a boat,” the governor said at a bill-signing ceremony on the shores of Lake Lanier.
The law also stiffens penalties for those convicted of boating while intoxicated. Another part requires safety education courses for boaters born since 1998 and requires anyone younger than 13 to wear life jackets on a moving boat.
The new restrictions memorialize Kile Glover and two brothers, Jake and Griffin Prince, who died in boating accidents in Lake Lanier last year.
The Princes died in June after an allegedly intoxicated boater slammed into their family’s pontoon boat as it cruised at night. Glover, the son of R&B singer Usher’s former wife, died in July after a boater ran over him and a 15-year-old girl while they were being towed on an inner tube behind a pontoon boat.
Their relatives sat quietly in the front row as Deal signed the legislation into law. The governor, not exactly known for public displays of emotion, had to pause and collect himself as he spoke of the need for the tighter restrictions.
“I sign this bill for all the Kiles, all the Jakes and all the Griffins in this state,” he said.
Tameka Raymond, Glover’s mother, said she viewed the new law as a legacy for her son.
“I hope that this will never have to impact another family,” she said. “Kile is not the first to die in this type of tragedy, but hopefully he will be the last.”