Boating DUI bill fails to pass

Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 7:52 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

A bill that would add boating DUI convictions to a person's driving record has failed. But the lawmaker who authored it already plans to bring the measure back to life.

The time has come for those Oklahomans eager to get out on the lake. But along with the fun of boating season, comes danger.

"People go on the lake and they think they have free run," Senator Bill Brown said. "Seventy mph, it's okay. Drink as much as you want its okay."

Alcohol related boating collisions appear to be at least at a five-year high.

The high fatality count reported in 2007 caused, at least in part, by alcohol use, is one of the reasons an Oklahoma Senator proposed a bill that would add boating DUI convictions to a person's driving record.

"I really didn't think I would have any opposition to this bill," Brown said. "I thought, ‘Who would be against drunken driving?'"

But -- he did. The Bill failed. Some lawmakers at the Capitol voted against it, not because they have a problem with the intent of the legislation, but because the penalties would be tied to your driving record.

"If somebody had no driver's license and was out caught driving on a boat, they would be penalized and punished and that would be the end of it," Senator Joe Sweeden said. "But if they had a driver's license, it would turn around and be applied to their driver's license and penalties would arrive there."

Still, the lawmaker who authored the bill said he will bring it back next year, after talking with opponents and changing the language.

"Any time you can take a vessel that will reach 70 and 80 mph, and being irresponsible, you're putting other lives in danger," Brown said. "And it is just as dangerous as an automobile."

In the meantime, Oklahoma boaters are enjoying their time on the water with no license requirement at all.

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators said in most states, a conviction of operating a boat under the influence does not affect a driver's license.