For three years, State Sen. Bill Brown has authored legislation to strengthen Oklahoma’s Boating Under the Influence laws with no success. Following the recent fatal boating accident at Lake Eufaula, Brown says it is time for the Legislature to take this issue seriously and stop putting recreation before safety.
“This is an issue I’ve been fighting since I got in office, and I don’t understand why I keep getting met with adversity,” said Brown, R-Broken Arrow. “This is a matter of life and death, but opponents of my measures seem more concerned about not ruining people’s good times rather than saving lives. But there is nothing fun about how many Oklahomans have been killed in alcohol-related boating accidents in our state, and I hope my fellow legislators will take this issue more seriously this coming session.”
According to the Department of Public Safety, there have been 100 alcohol-related boating accidents in the state since January 1, 2003. This year, there have already been 18 accidents, which is more than any other annual total in the past seven years. During that same time period, there have been 43 deaths.
These numbers do not include the recent hit-and-run boating accident at Lake Eufaula on Saturday, September 4 where Greg Scherff, 38, was killed and others were hurt. Officials believe alcohol was involved in this incident, but that has yet to be confirmed.
“How many people have to die before we get serious about this issue? A boat can be just as dangerous as a car especially when you consider that some boats can travel over 80 mph and there are no road signs or speed limits on the water,” said Brown. “People also don’t take into consideration the effect alcohol has on them while on the water and research shows that the effects are much greater and more dangerous in the water than on land because of dehydration and exposure to the elements.”
Brown said he will be filing a bill for the upcoming session that is similar to Senate Bill 902, which he filed in 2009.
SB 902 would have lowered the legal blood alcohol concentration limit for BUI’s from 0.10 to 0.08 percent to be the same as DUI’s. The measure was approved by the Senate in 2009, but not the House. Therefore, work on the bill had to continue during the 2010 session where again it was passed by the Senate, but not the House.
In 2008, Brown also authored SB 1140, which would have required a conviction of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) to be made part of an individual’s driving record. The measure was killed in committee.