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Tougher penalties for drunken boating OKd

Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in 2011.

Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in 2011. (Credit: Albany Times Union, 2011)

Legislation that would require boaters to pass a safety course and raise penalties for driving a boat while intoxicated have been approved by the State Senate Transportation Committee.

The bills have been sponsored by committee chairman Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in the wake of several fatal boating accidents last summer.

The BWI bill would make it a felony to drive a boat while drunk with children aboard, institute mandatory suspensions of boating privileges and motor vehicle driver’s licenses, and create a new charge of aggravated BWI for driving a boat with a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent or higher. The state’s legal limit is 0.08. The bill also would link driving, boating and snowmobiling under-the-influence offenses, so violators could be charged as repeat offenders.

“New York State has some of the nation’s toughest driving under the influence laws,” Fuschillo said in a statement, “but its boating under the influence laws have not kept pace.”

“Boats are large, powerful vehicles that can be dangerous and cause serious harm if they are operated improperly,” Fuschillo added. “Requiring individuals to receive training about basic safety and navigation procedures in order to operate a boat is a commonsense step that will make our waterways safer for everyone.”

The BWI bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and currently is in the Transportation Committee. The mandatory education bill is sponsored by Weisenberg and Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and is in the Assembly’s tourism and parks committee.

Suffolk County has already passed a law requiring all boaters to pass a safety course. It takes effect in November.

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