As springtime approaches, Atlanta residents begin to enjoy outdoor activities including boating on nearby Lake Lanier. However, Atlanta residents should employ safety measures and caution in order to avoid boating accidents that can lead to serious injuries and fatalities for themselves and others around them.
Last summer, two brothers, ages 9 and 13 lost their lives as a result of a boating accident on Lake Lanier. One boy died as a result of massive injuries and the other’s body was thrown into the Lake and recovered 9 days after the accident occurred. This occurred after the driver of a speeding 21-foot boat crashed into the boat the boys were riding. The driver of the boat was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. He is currently facing homicide and boating under the influence (BUI) charges.
BOATING ACCIDENTS HAVE HIGH RATES OF FATALITIES
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), approximately 54 boating accidents occurred on Georgia waters in the first six months of 2012. These boating accidents lead to 22 injuries and five fatalities. Overall, alcohol is a contributing factor in 6 percent of boating accidents. However, it causes 16 percent of boat accident related fatalities across the country.
During this same time period, DNR Rangers made 63 arrests for BUI infractions. There were a total of 168 BUI arrests made in 2011. Law enforcement officials have taken measures to try and reduce incidents of BUI. For example, Operation Dry Waters (ODW) is an annual campaign which seeks to reduce BUI occurrences during the Memorial Day holiday, which is a popular time for boating. As part of this campaign DNR Rangers enhance their enforcement efforts. In 2012, ODW resulted in 7 BUI arrests at Lake Lanier over the Memorial Day holiday.
GEORGIA BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE LAWS ARE CHANGING
Under current Georgia law, the legal limit for blood alcohol content is lower for operators of motor vehicles than for operators of boats. However, lawmakers are attempting to resolve this discrepancy by lowering the legal limit for blood alcohol content of boat operators. This move comes in response to last year’s fatal boat accident on Lake Lanier. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal asked for such a move immediately after last summer’s accident.
The recently drafted Georgia bill would lower the legal blood alcohol content of boat operators to 0.08 grams. This would make the legal blood alcohol content of boat operators equal to that of motor vehicle operators. In addition, the bill would require boat operators to meet enhanced training requirement and would increase the age for mandatory life jackets.
On March 1, the bill passed the State Senate by a 50-0 vote. It is currently in the House. The legislative session ends on March 22.
If you or a loved one has been injured, or if your loved one has been killed in a boating accident, contact an attorney immediately. An attorney will be able to protect your legal rights and ensure that you receive just compensation for your injuries and losses.