SPRINGFIELD — As boaters across the state begin heading out on the water, lawmakers are proposing stricter penalties for incidents involving boat operators.
The General Assembly earlier this spring approved a plan that would allow the state to suspend or revoke someone’s driver’s license if they are involved in a serious boating accident and are then found to have been operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Jamie Maul said the penalties would impact a smaller number of boaters, where only cases involving serious accidents could impact someone’s driver’s license. However, a person would also still be subject to losing boating privileges.
“There is the potential for them to not only face the criminal penalties, but also to lose their driver’s license,” Maul said. “So we hope that is deterrent for people to not drink and operate a boat.”
A first time offender who refuses to take a chemical sobriety test would face having their driver’s license suspended for a year. A first time offender who takes the test, but has a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher or who has drugs in their system would face a six-month suspension. Repeat offenders would see longer suspensions.
Lawmakers sent the plan to the governor’s desk at the end of May.
Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn, said in an email that the administration supports the measure.
Henry Haupt, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White, said the estimated costs the measure would have to their office would be about $10,000, with one of the main changes being made to the sworn reports officers use.
“We’ll process (those) like we do with any drunk driving arrest,” Haupt said. “We will process what the law enforcement sends to us. In this case, the process would be identical with a motorist.”
In 2012, there were a total of 209 arrests made for operating under the influence. There were 101 total reported boating accidents, many of which involved fatalities and injuries.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1479.