The tragic death of a 10-year-old child has led to a change in law for Illinois boaters who are drunk or on illegal drugs and get involved in an accident.
Beginning January 1, 2014, Illinois boaters suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs face new, stringent testing. In essence, they will be treated like motor vehicle drivers suspected of being under the influence while behind the wheel. The new law applies to any motor boat operator involved in an accident that results in death or injury. Boaters who are tested for alcohol and register a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher will at the minimum face suspension of their driver’s license. The same penalty applies to Illinois boaters who test positive for drugs or who refuse any testing.
Sailboats other non-powered watercraft are subject to this new law as well.
Last year, 10-year-old Tony Borcia was tubing on an Illinois lake when he was hit and killed by a boater who was drunk and on cocaine. He was the nephew of Illinois Rep. Julie Morrison, who this year co-authored the new legislation in response to the tragedy.
Fatal boating accidents caused by drunken operators are not isolated incidents. According to the United States Coast Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics, alcohol use was the largest contributing factor for fatal boating accidents that year. Almost 40 percent of all boating accidents that listed alcohol use as a contributing factor resulted in a fatality.
Hopefully, the new law will reduce fatal boating accidents, but they surely won’t be stopped completely. Those who are seriously hurt or have loved ones killed by a boater under the influence of drugs or alcohol may want to contact an experienced attorney to review their legal rights for holding the responsible parties accountable for their negligence.