The Iowa House has voted to apply the same intoxication standards to some drunken boaters as are used to judge those who drive drunk on Iowa roads.
Representative Todd Taylor, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the move will make Iowa’s waterways safer.
If the bill that cleared the Iowa House Wednesday night becomes law, someone piloting most motor boats — or sail boats running on motors — can be charged with drunken boating if their blood alcohol level is .08. The boat must be moving, though, for the skipper to be charged with drunken boating — so anchored boaters would be exempt.
Representative Donovan Olson, a Democrat from Boone, said just talking about the issue may reduce drunken boating. "Just the discussion of lowering the blood alcohol level from .10 to .08 for automobiles has made people more aware of what they drink and how much they drink and made them think before they get in an automobile," Olson said. He suggested some boaters may now reduce the amount of alcohol they take with them on their vessels.
But Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, said anyone piloting a boat — not just the skippers of motorized vessels — should be judged by that stricter drunken boating standard, including canoers and people skippering a sailboat. "I would rather have all boaters — all boaters — be at .10 than to have some boaters at .08," Raecker said.
Iowa’s current law says drunken drivers on Iowa roadways are those who register a blood alcohol level of .08 or more. The intoxication level for drunken boaters, however, is currently at .10.
The Iowa Senate has already voted unanimously this year to apply the stricter, .08 blood alcohol standard to all boaters, not offering an exemption for those skippering a boat running by sail or by oar.