Drunken-boating bill debated in Iowa legislature

DES MOINES – Some Iowa legislators are concerned about a proposed state law that would enact stricter standards for drunken-driving violations for boaters, the Des Moines Register reported in a story today.

The proposal, which was approved in a unanimous January vote by the Senate, would change the blood-alcohol limit for boat operators from 0.10 to 0.08, but still must gain approval from the Iowa House and the signature of the governor before it becomes law, the Register reported.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said some legislators, including himself, have concerns that the proposal may be too tough.

“It may not be politically correct or politically popular to say so, but there’s a day-and-night difference between driving on the road and on the water,” McCarthy told the newspaper. “Accidents rarely, rarely, if ever, happen on the water due to alcohol consumption. It’s just a fact.”

Drunken-boating violations do not count against driving records. Intoxicated boat operators can be charged with a simple misdemeanor for the first offense, which carries a fine of up to $1,000, two days in jail and loss of their boat licenses for a year.

Brenda Krumel, president of the Polk County chapter of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, said her group is opposed to any amendments that would give more leniency to people who drink and operate boats, compared with those who drive automobiles.

“There needs to be a serious message” for people who boat drunk “because the results are that people can lose their lives,” Krumel told the Register.

Last year, 20 percent of reported boating accidents across the state involved alcohol. That’s up from 16 percent in 2004, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said. There were 42 arrests in Iowa in 2006 for operating a boat while intoxicated. That’s up from 26 arrests in 2004. Iowa first put a blood-alcohol limit in place for boaters in 2000, the newspaper reported.

McCarthy said the bill could be debated later this week.

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