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Illinois proposal suspends drivers' licenses of drunk boaters

Most Cook County residents are cognizant of the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. Unfortunately, many people forget or ignore laws once they are floating on an Illinois river or lake.

Mindsets often change from the road to the water. Safe driving habits last until a driver reaches a relaxing destination. A few alcoholic drinks in the hot sun seem harmless until there's an accident. In a car or on a boat, intoxication that causes serious injuries or death is negligence subject to criminal and civil penalties.

OUI laws for Illinois boaters already exist, but lawmakers want to make the rules harsher. State Senator Julie Morrison has a personal stake in seeing passage of new boating legislation. The senator's young nephew was struck and killed last year by an intoxicated boater.

State laws maintain the same 0.08 blood alcohol limit for on-road drivers and boat operators. OUI offenders - drunk or drugged - can be punished with fines and prison time. The charge becomes a felony for boaters with previous OUI convictions and accidents involving injury.

Under Senate Bill 1479, driver's license privileges would be suspended for boaters under the influence who cause injury accidents. Proponents of the measure say the fear of losing the opportunity to operate any vehicle may be enough to keep boaters sober.

The state legislature passed the OUI boating bill. With the governor's approval, new regulations to prevent drunk driving accidents on Illinois waterways would take effect in 2014.

Victims of boating accidents involving intoxicated drivers may pursue liability lawsuits, whether or not criminal penalties increase. Civil courts look for negligence before deciding to award damages to injured individuals or families of victims who died.

A person who is negligent disregards the safety of another individual. Civil laws state that harm - physical, emotional and financial - caused by a defendant's irresponsibility, whether it is purposeful or accidental, is compensable.

Source:, "New Illinois Bill Targets Drunk Boaters" No Author Given, Jul. 03, 2013

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