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DNR warns of OWI risk for boaters this summer

When most people in Wisconsin think about drunken driving, they typically think about a person driving a car. But as officers from the DNR point out, the legal limit for boaters is the same as any other recreational vehicle and can carry with it some of the same consequences as well.

According to statistics gathered by the U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin had the third highest number of alcohol-related boating deaths in 2012. And according to the Green Bay Press Gazette, that's the same year a bill to stiffen penalties for drunken boaters failed to make it out of committee too. The reason? Some speculate that it's because, unlike other states, Wisconsin does not apply the same penalties for drunken boaters as it does for other recreational vehicles. Some state representatives think that should change.

As State Representative Andre Jacque explained recently, there is no reason why penalties for drunken boaters should be any different from drunken drivers. Many other residents in the state agree; after all, alcohol-related accidents on the water can lead to just as fatal of outcomes as they can on the roads. "You're presenting a risk not only to yourself, but to those around you and there's serious consequences, I think, should follow from that," Jacque says.

While boating OWIs may not go on a person's driver's license record or prevent a person from operating a boat again, officers from the DNR want to make it clear that anyone found to be operating a boat over the legal limit this summer can be fined and required to attend a mandatory boater's safety course as well.  A small penalty, some say, for such negligent behavior.

Source: WQOW News, "Boating season comes with OWI risks," Michael Crusan, May 28, 2013  

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