State officials completed a two-day tour around Georgia on Wednesday to promote a new law that lowers the legal limit for boaters consuming alcohol.
The new law, which went into effect on Wednesday, drops the legally acceptable blood alcohol concentration for those driving a boat to .08 from .10, which matches the limit for motorists. Gov. Nathan Deal and officials from the Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia State Patrol and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety met on Lake Lanier near Gainesville.
"Someone who's had too much to drink has no business operating a boat," Deal said. "They put not only themselves, but also innocent bystanders in mortal danger."
The tour was dubbed ".08: Where the Rudder Meets the Road" and covered seven boating destinations around the state. Last year, five people died or were injured as a result of suspected drunken boaters.
The law was named for Jake and Griffin Prince, two brothers from Buford who died last summer on Lake Lanier after a suspected drunk driver crashed into a boat they were on.
The state DNR has 200 law enforcement rangers who patrol state waterways, and Col. Eddie Henderson, chief of the DNR's Law Enforcement Division, said those rangers are committed to enforcing the new law.
"Operating a boat is as complicated as driving a car," Henderson said. "So you need to be able to think clearly and react clearly. If you add alcohol impairment to the marine environment, which already can cause fatigue due to waves, engine noise, sun and wind, you are accelerating into a potentially hazardous situation."
The DNR will also join other state law enforcement officials in the annual summer traffic enforcement campaign called "100 Days of Summer HEAT," which stands for Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic. The campaign has also been called "100 Deadly Days of Summer," and last year took 5,924 drunk drivers off the road, the GOHS said. The campaign runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.