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Georgia lawmaker wants to lower legal alcohol limit for boaters

As we mentioned earlier this summer on our Athens, Georgia, DUI law blog, boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense. Although the penalties for BUI are similar to the penalties folks face when they are convicted of DUI, there are some key differences between the two criminal offenses in Georgia.

In Georgia, a suspected drunk driver who is 21 or older will be charged with DUI if his or her blood alcohol reading is 0.08 or higher. However, it is not illegal for an individual who is 21 or older to operate a boat when his or her blood alcohol reading is 0.08. The legal alcohol limit for boaters is 0.10 in Georgia.

Many residents and safety groups have been arguing that the legal alcohol limit should be the same for drivers and boaters. Although past efforts to lower the legal limit for boaters have failed, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston recently announced that he will encourage lawmakers to pass laws to lower legal limits for boaters in the next legislative session.

The state's executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the lawmaker's efforts to lower the legal limit for boaters to 0.08. The director said that lowering the legal limit could certainly help to prevent fatal boating crashes caused by drunk boaters. Because boaters can legally drink more alcohol compared to drivers, they may not always realize how intoxicated they are until it is too late. Just this summer, two boys were killed in a boating accident caused by an alleged drunk boater.

Although the legal limit for boaters in Georgia is still 0.10, boaters should always make sure that they designate a sober person to operate a boat in order to avoid any serious or fatal accidents on our state's waters, and to avoid getting into legal trouble as well. It may be legal for boaters to drink more alcohol than drivers, but it is not necessarily safe for them to do so.

Source: CBS Atlanta, "Powerful lawmaker supports lowering BUI limit," Christopher King, July 12, 2012