The Iowa Senate has voted to toughen the standard for judging who is too drunk to drive a boat. While the blood alcohol limit for driving a vehicle was lowered to 0.08 a few years ago, the standard for piloting a boat while drunk has remained at 0.10.

Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, has long sought to make the standards identical for drunken driving and drunken boating. "In 2007 and 2008, there were 61 arrests for boating while intoxicated in this state…and that was over the .10 limit, but during that same time 168 people were field tested and had a blood alcohol concentration between .08 and .099," Johnson says.

It means, according to Johnson, that those boaters could have been picked up for drunken driving soon after that if they got on the roads. "In that case, they could take their boat out of the water, put it on the trailer and head down the roads and highways of this state and they’d be considered — if arrested and tested — they could be charged with drunken driving," Johnson says.

Johnson argues Iowa Department of Natural Resources officers who patrol the state’s lakes and rivers won’t be out to "get" drunken boaters. "They’ll launch an educational program. This is really to bring safety into this," Johnson says. "There have been some tragic accidents. The General Assembly has heard discussion of those things…where there have been some fatalities. There have been some serious injuries."

The drunken boating bill passed the Iowa Senate on a 49-1 vote this afternoon. In 2007, the senate unanimously passed a similar bill, but the bill died in the House.