LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan boaters and snowmobilers would be held to the same drunken driving standards as drivers under legislation introduced in the state House.
The bipartisan package of bills would set the legal blood-alcohol limit for boat, snowmobile and off-road vehicle operators at 0.08 percent. Under the state’s current law, people can legally operate snowmobiles and boats with a 0.10 blood-alcohol content.
The legislation, introduced by Republican Reps. Matt Lori of Constantine and Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs and Democratic Rep. Andrew Kandrevas of Southgate, stems from a 2005 tragedy in which 7-year-old Ryan Zielinski was killed on Donnell Lake in Cass County.
Zielinski died when a personal watercraft operator with a BAC that would have gotten him arrested for drunken driving ran over the tube in which Ryan was being towed. County officials were unable to prosecute the watercraft driver as severely as they would have been able to if he were an automobile driver.
“Prosecutors need all the tools possible to pursue the operators of recreational vehicles and possibly prevent future tragedies such as the one that killed Ryan,” Lori said in a statement. “This will not only improve safety on our state’s lakes, but also on snowmobile routes and off-road trails.”
Pagel said the legislative package will make the system of trails that snake through the state much safer for everyone.
“It’s understandable that snowmobilers should have fun and relax while enjoying their hobby,” Pagel said in a statement. “However, they also should be held to the same standards as drivers of automobiles when it comes to alcohol consumption.”
The measures were referred to House Criminal Justice Committee.
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