After years of trying, backers have finally won legislative approval of a bill that sets a new, tougher standard for judging drunken boaters. It means the legal blood alcohol limit for boaters will be lowered to .08, the same as for drivers on the roadways, if Governor Branstad signs the bill into law.
Earlier this year the Senate embraced the idea, but the House made changes in the legislation to ensured drunken boating charges can be levied only when the boat’s moving rather than when it’s anchored. Senator Dick Dearden, a Democrat from Des Moines, urged Senators to go along.
“For somebody to get a ticket, the officer has to see the person operating the boat with the motor running or a sailboat, the sail is hoisted,” Dearden said today in the Senate. “I really don’t think it does much, but it makes the House feel better.”
Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Grinnell, suggested people in a boat that’s not moving shouldn’t be drunk either.
“I think that our officers who are out there working hard have got to have an easier opportunity to deal with those people who are being on a body of water intoxicated,” Black said.
Yet Black joined 40 other senators to approve the bill.
Backers of the bill say there have been nearly two dozen tragic accidents on Iowa lakes over the past decade involving people driving a boat drunk. With power boats able to go up to 55 miles an hour on some of the state’s larger lakes, Dearden said it makes sense to ensure the same standards for drunk driving are in place in Iowa whether you’re driving a car on a highway or a boat on a lake.