News 12 First at Five / Thursday, April 25, 2013
APPLING, Ga. (WRDW) -- Starting May 15, it won't matter if you're behind the wheel of a car or on a boat, the legal limit of alcohol allowed in your system will be the same. Gov. Nathan Deal just signed a tougher new boater safety law to lower the blood alcohol limit to .08.
Many people are actually happy to see the limit come down. The Department of Natural Resources says even though BUIs will probably go up, they're hoping the new law will help tragedies on the lake come down.
"We come out here to have a good time not get hurt," explained boater Scott McCurley.
Having a good time is the ultimate goal of a day on the lake, and the same reason Gov. Deal just signed a new law about boater safety.
"I think it's a great thing. I think the lakes are getting more crowded now, and they need more laws to keep people from getting hurt," McCurley said.
"It's like singing when you're drinking. Everybody sings better when they had a drink, and everyone thinks they can drive better and boat better when they've had a drink, and actually the opposite is true," explained Flotilla Commander Jim McMenamin, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Last year, there were 118 boating accidents across the state of Georgia. Twelve of them were fatal; five involved alcohol. With this new law, officers hope these numbers will go down.
"They are going to enhance boater safety on the lake and perhaps make everyone's job a little bit easier," McMenamin said.
One number that probably won't go down -- BUIs. Georgia gave out 180 BUIs last year, and DNR expects that number will rise. But as that number increases, hopefully so will people's safety on the water.
McCurley knows how important that can be. He lost an uncle in a drowning.
"Somebody has to be responsible. It's not like in a car. You may have to save somebody from drowning," he said.
Drowning is a tragedy the law is also trying to address.
"It's going to change some of the rules of personal watercraft. It's also going to change some of the life jacket rules. If you're under 13, you have to wear a life jacket now and that's a bit of a change," McMenamin said.
The law also requires a boater safety education course for boaters born after Jan. 1, 1998. DNR is offering the classes for free. You can find the information on their website.
The law comes after some deadly accidents at Lake Lanier, and each part of the law is named after a child who died on the lake.
Plus, this change finally makes the alcohol limit the same in Georgia and South Carolina.