An Iowa Senate committee will debate legislation Tuesday that would take another try at toughening the state’s drunken boating law. The legal blood alcohol limit on the water now is .10, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources wants it lowered to .08 to match the limit for driving a car.
D.N.R. assistant law enforcement chief, Randy Edwards says the two different standards puts them in a bind. Edwards says when they get a boater on the water that’s at .08 or .09 unless they’re really bad, they have no choice but to let them go or try to get them to have a designated operator.
Edwards says, "Our concern is when they stay out there and continue to drink or they say we’re going to go home. Then they take their four-thousand-pound boat and put it behind their car and drive a 150 miles to go home and in a vehicle you know they are illegal because if they’re at .08 or .09 they’re breaking the motor vehicle law." Edwards says people mistakenly believe driving a boat is easier than driving a car.
"Even a good drunk can usually keep it between the ditches literally," Edwards says, "but out on the water there’s no intersections, there’s no signs, people are coming and going at all sorts of different angles and different speeds in different sizes of boats and it just requires a high attention and focus of operators and when they’re not paying attention and drinking bad things happen."
The Iowa Legislature voted six years ago to lower the legal limit for cars to avoid losing federal highway funding. The issue passed the Senate unanimously twice last year, but the measure was weakened and then abandoned by the Iowa House. Edwards says Iowa is one of only a dozen states that hasn’t adopted the tougher standard for drunken boating.