Illinois lawmakers are considering a series of measures aimed at making the state’s waterways safer, including a bill that would impose stiffer penalties on people caught operating a boat while intoxicated.
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports that under the measure, anyone convicted of operating a watercraft while under the influence would have their driver’s license suspended for three months.
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Deerfield. Morrison’s nephew, 10-year-old Anthony Borcia of Libertyville, was struck by a boat and killed in 2012 after he fell off a tube on Petite Lake, which is part of the Chain O’Lakes in northern Illinois. The man operating the boat pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol after alcohol and cocaine were found in his system. He was sentenced earlier this year to 10 years in prison.
Another bill would require residents born on or after Jan. 1, 1990 to complete a boating safety course and receive a certificate from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources before they could operate a watercraft. Currently, the only people who must have a safety certificate to operate a boat are those between the ages of 12 and 18 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian or someone at least 18 who is designated by the parent or guardian.
The third piece of legislation would require operators of watercraft towing a person behind a boat to display an orange flag.
More than 200 people turned out for a hearing on the bills in suburban Chicago in August. Many were opposed to the proposed regulations, saying they punish everyone for the actions of a few people.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday in Springfield, though no vote will be taken.
The bills are SB1477, SB1478 and SB1805
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