Drinking and boating do not mix well

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, March 5, 2009

What is the difference between fatal boating accidents involving alcohol and a person who was killed by a drunk driver on the road? Nothing, and they should be treated the same.

That’s what the Alabama House Judiciary Committee thought when they approved a bill that would treat fatal boating accidents involving alcoholic beverages the same as fatal traffic accidents where the driver of one of the vehicles was driving under the influence.

Rep. Barry Mask of Wetumpka, who is sponsoring this legislation, said the bill was inspired by fatal boating accidents in recent years on Lake Jordan and Lake Martin. District Attorney Randall Houston said the bill would set the same penalties for fatal traffic accidents and boating accidents where drinking is a contributing factor.

Houston said the bill is needed because of the large number of boaters on Alabama lakes and the speed of boats operating on waterways.

We agree with Houston and Mask. DUI shouldn’t matter whether it is on asphalt or water. Alcohol and operating a vehicle just doesn’t mix. The two usually turn out to be a deadly combination—for the driver and other motorists and boaters.

It is amazing that this act hasn’t already been passed in the Legislature. Law enforcement agencies need to be able to charge drunken boaters who cause fatal crashes with the same kind of offense as those drunken drivers who do the same.

In the past few years, there have been more boating accidents occurring on our lakes. Several of those wrecks probably involved alcohol use.

Experts say boating under the influence can in some cases be more dangerous than driving under the influence because many boaters have less experience maneuvering a boat than a car. Some of the most common accidents occur because of alcohol consumption, which severely impairs the judgment, reactions and coordination of a driver.

Thus, we need this rule on the books to make people think twice about drinking and boating.