After more than a decade of different drunk driving laws on land and at sea, Michigan is now holding all vehicles and motorists to the same standard.
Holding All Drivers Accountable
The legal alcoholic limit for driving a car was changed from 0.10 to 0.08 in 2003, but that same policy wasn't made for boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicle statutes. However, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign new policy into place that will subject boaters and snowmobilers to the same 0.08 driving policy.
"I think it makes sense to have the same standards in place for operating any vehicle," said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
"It's equally unsafe to drive a car drunk as it is to pilot a boat. If you look at, statistically, the incidents we have on the water, a high preponderance of those have alcohol involved."
Getting Tough on Drunk Boating
The issue of drunk boating was front and center in Michigan this summer after a Chesterfield Township native killed two people. While operating a boat intoxicated, Brandon Verfaillie drove up and over another vessel occupied by Robert and Marlene Koontz and Nancy Axford.
Robert and Nancy were pronounced dead at the scene, while Robert’s wife Marlene was seriously injured.
Verfaillie’s blood alcohol level was .105. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts of operating a vessel while intoxicated causing death, along with one count of operating a vessel while intoxicated causing serious injury.
Michigan law makers feel sure that the new DUI policy will change attitudes on the water. Bouchard explained that a person with a lower blood alcohol content (BAC) could still be convicted, but other state officials are hopeful that Michigan residents will get the message that excessive drinking and boating is not acceptable.
Weighing In on the Dangers
“The legislature is finally recognizing how much more dangerous it is in a watercraft than a vehicle,” said St. Clair County Prosecutor Mike Wendling.
“A boat doesn’t have brakes; it has to coast to a stop. It does not have a flat roadway and there are no lines to follow and the waves and wakes can get choppy. That, along with the high horse-power and rate of speed for watercraft, with possibly multiple people on board with no seat belts, makes it highly dangerous — with a potential risk for hurt or death.”
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