Most people already knows that drinking alcohol and driving a car is a dangerous combination, however, there is less awareness of the same dangers while operating a boat. Mix water, a boat and throw in alcohol and the results can be deadly. That’s why Governor Pat Quinn signed new legislation in July to improve boating safety.
“This is something that never should have happened, there should have been more enforcement out there,” Jim Borcia said. Their 10-year-old son Tony was killed two years ago on the Chain-of-Lakes while tubing with his family. A boater, operating his boat while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, ran the boy over as his family watched in horror. Tony and his family frantically waved their hands to the boater to get his attention, but he never slowed down.
Tony’s family used their tragedy to change laws. “We know there are other Tonys out there that are in danger every weekend, every day, said Jim Borcia. “Unless things change, the mindset of boats shouldn’t be associated with partying, it should be associated with responsibility.”
Since the tragic accident, the family has created the Y-Not Project in Tony’s name, and raised enough money to buy a boat for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to patrol the Chain-of-Lakes.
In July, Gov. Quinn signed three new bills into law to increase boating safety. The first law will make punishment for boating under the influence more in line with driving other vehicles under the influence. The next bill will require boaters 16 and younger to pass a boating safety course and have a valid certificate, and the third law will require the operator of any boat to display a bright orange flag if they are towing a person.
“From a little boy’s death has come the beginning of reform for boating safety in Illinois,” Morrison said. “Part of your pain has been turned into purpose,” she said to his parents, who have been pushing for changes in boating laws since his death.
The bills, signed in July, increase the power of law enforcement officials and put new restrictions and requirements on boaters. Under one of them, a persons’ watercraft can be seized after multiple DUI offenses. In another, all people born after January 1998 will be required to take a boater safety course and hold a boater safety certificate before they can operate a boat with an engine over 10 horsepower, according to Quinn’s office. The final bill requires any watercraft towing a person to display a bright orange flag no less than 12 inches per side in size.
In 2014 so far, there have been 16 boating fatalities reported on Illinois waterways. It is hoped that these new laws will help to reduce that number during the boating season on the local waterways.
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