Harsher penalties possible for boating under the influence

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Kendall Downing

JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. - With a swipe of his pen, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn could toughen restrictions on boat operators in the Land of Lincoln.

The House and Senate unanimously approved the boating under the influence bill earlier this spring. Now it's waiting on the governor's signature.

Boat operators whose blood alcohol content is .08 or above could get their driver's license suspended if they're caught. And if a boat operator is involved in an accident and refuses a breath or chemical test, the Secretary of State can suspend their driver's license.

Long lines at the lake are a common sight on the 4th of July, especially when it's nice outside.

"It's beautiful weather, perfect," said Deborah Crask.

But with the freedom the open water provides comes the temptation to drink too much. Deborah Crask said she's in favor of tougher penalties for those operating a boat under the influence.

"There's no reason that you have to get over the limit," she said.

A bill on the governor's desk gives the Illinois Secretary of State the authority to suspend the driver's license of a person boating while legally drunk. If you're behind the wheel of a boat, cause an accident, and refuse a blood alcohol test, your license could be suspended too.

"If you exercise poor judgment on the water, you're most likely going to exercise that same poor judgment behind the wheel," said Tad Thompson, a Murphysboro Police officer.

Thompson said the legislation encourages boaters to act responsibly.

"Driving is a privilege not a right. Like any other privilege it can be revoked," he said.

Some Local 6 talked to on the water disagreed. They insisted actions on the water should stay separate from those on land.

Nobody with that opinion would go on camera.

Deborah Crask said the details shouldn't matter.

"Whatever vehicle you're driving, whether it's a boat or car or truck, you're responsible for your actions," she said.

Senator Julie Morrison sponsored the legislation. Her 10-year-old nephew was killed in 2012 after being hit by a boat. The driver of that boat was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine.

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