The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved legislation by Sen. Bill Brown that would lower the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for the offense of boating under the influence from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent. Also approved this week was Brown’s measure to prohibit alcohol on all public high school campuses in Oklahoma.
Senate Bill 902 would also prevent children under the age of 12 from operating any personal watercraft powered by a motor or sail-powered vessel longer than 16 feet in length. Brown said it is necessary to add teeth to the state’s boating laws to reduce watercraft-related accidents and deaths.
“Our laws regarding blood alcohol limits for operating watercraft ought to be consistent with our laws for operating motor vehicles,” said Brown, R-Broken Arrow. “Operating a watercraft under the influence is every bit as dangerous as a car or truck. It’s clear that we need to add some teeth to the law in order to make our waterways safer.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for nearly twenty percent of all reported fatalities. In 2006, Oklahoma per capita had more watercraft-related accidents, fatal accidents and fatalities stemming from alcohol use than over half of other states.
“Going to the lake is an important recreational activity for countless Oklahomans,” Brown said. “We ought to do everything in our power to ensure their safety while they enjoy the natural beauty our state has to offer.”
Senate Bill 641 would prohibit alcohol on all public high school campuses in Oklahoma, including secondary schools supported by state funding, charter schools and independent school districts.
“Alcohol simply has no place on our high school campuses,” Brown said. “It’s another measure intended to preserve safety in a place of critical importance in all our communities. This is a law designed to minimize risk for children and families throughout the state.”