Legislator Pushes for Tougher Boating DUI Laws in Oklahoma

With over 100 alcohol-related boating accidents resulting in 44 deaths over the past seven years, one legislator continues to push for tougher Oklahoma DUI boating laws.  According to Senator Bill Brown, Oklahoma DUI laws for boats and other watercraft are more lenient than DUI laws for motor vehicles on land. 

For the past three years, Sen. Brown, who runs a boat marina, has introduced legislation to strengthen penalties for operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol. In all fifty states, the legal limit for DUI on land is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08.  However, nine states, including Oklahoma, set the legal limit for DUI on water above .08.  

The driver of a boat must have a BAC of .10 to be found guilty of DUI in Oklahoma. While land DUI results in a loss of driving privileges, boating DUI is not connected to driver's license restrictions in Oklahoma.  However, thirteen states have laws in which a DUI conviction on the water leads to the loss of one's driver's license.

Additionally, the penalties for boating DUI are lesser than for DUI on land.  If one is found guilty of driving a boat or watercraft while intoxicated, he or she would be convicted of a misdemeanor charge, fined $246, and sentenced to only 8 hours in jail.

Senator Brown says that his push for tougher DUI laws on Oklahoma lakes has been met with strong resistance from those indicating that the lake is a place to relax and unwind.  However, Sen. Brown cites the number of alcohol-related accidents and deaths as a need for stronger legislation.  Most recently, a 38-year-old father was killed and six others injured in a fatal hit-and-run at Oklahoma's Lake Eufaula. 

In the accident, a boat driven by 24-year-old Aaron Jones struck the boat in which Greg Scherff was a passenger, killing Scherff.  Jones fled the scene and cleaned up his boat.  While investigators found no evidence of alcohol on the boat, witnesses report that alcohol was most likely a factor in the collision.  Jones was cited in 2003 for driving with an open container of beer.

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