Labor Day Boaters Testing Out The Waters With Act 299

With so many Arkansans hitting the many waterways of Arkansas this Labor day, boaters should be reminded of the new state law that says being intoxicated while driving a boat is as serious as driving a car while impaired.

Arkansas State Senator Jimmy Hickey saw a problem with drinking and boat driving so he filed the Senate Bill 81, with co-sponsors including state Sens. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers; Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs; and Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs. The bill, which made changes to the DWI law and related measures, was supported by other victims of drunken-boating accidents.

The bill passed 34-0 in the Senate and 97-0 in the House this spring, and is now Act 299 of 2015. It became effective July 22.

Before the act became law, a boating while intoxicated or boating under the influence offense would be mentioned on an offender’s driving record and could be considered by a judge in sentencing in future DWI or DUI offenses. A boating while intoxicated offense now requires suspension of a violator’s driver’s license and vehicle registration, the same penalty as a DWI in a car.

Billboards such as this one are scheduled to go up in Northwest Arkansas sometime next year, according to the U.S. Army Corps... (Credit: Courtesy Photo)
Billboards such as this one are scheduled to go up in Northwest Arkansas sometime next year, according to the U.S. Army Corps… (Credit: Courtesy Photo)

The law requires license suspension periods for driving or boating while intoxicated within a five-year period as follows: six months for a first offense, 24 months for a second offense, 30 months for a third offense and 48 months for a fourth offense.

Alcohol was the leading factor in 21 percent of all fatal boating accidents in 2014, according to Coast Guard figures. That’s despite alcohol being a factor in only 12 percent of overall boating accidents, figures show.

Penalties for those convicted start at 24 hours to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense. A second offense can bring imprisonment of seven days to one year and a fine up to $3,000. The third offense can result in imprisonment of 90 days to one year and a fine of up to $5,000. A fourth offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment up to six years and a fine of up to $5,000.

So boaters should think twice before celebrating Labor day boating under the influence.

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