CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to help improve safety on Illinois’ waterways. The three new laws expand boating safety education, improve safety and awareness of water skiers and tubers and increase penalties for those who operate watercraft under the influence. Today’s bill signings, which took place at Chicago’s 31st Street Harbor, are part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to make outdoor recreation safe and enjoyable for everyone.
“Over this Fourth of July weekend, it’s important that all residents stay safe while celebrating, especially out on Illinois’ waterways,” Governor Quinn said. “While boating is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, everyone has to take precautions and follow the rules to keep drivers and passengers out of harm’s way. These new laws will help make Illinois’ lakes and rivers safer and more enjoyable for all.”
State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) and State Representative Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) sponsored all three pieces of legislation. All three news laws are effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Senate Bill 3434 allows for the seizure of a watercraft used in the commission of certain offenses related to operating under the influence. The new rules bring penalties for boating under the influence more in line with those for operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
“When people continue to drink and drive after they’ve been convicted of crimes relating to DUIs, sheriffs can seize their cars,” Senator Morrison said. “Boats are every bit as dangerous as cars, and boat operators should be held to the same standard as drivers.”
Senate Bill 3433 requires all persons born after Jan. 1, 1998 to take and pass a boating safety course validated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and hold a valid boating safety certificate before they can operate a motorboat with an engine over 10 horsepower.
“I have learned of many tragic losses of life due to boating accidents which could have been avoided with better education for our boaters,” Representative Burke said. “Boating is a great recreational activity which I hope more people will participate in, but there are risks to everyone involved, novice and experts alike. This new law will ensure all boaters have as much experience and education as possible when enjoying themselves on our state’s waterways.”
Governor Quinn also signed Senate Bill 2731, which mandates that the operator of any watercraft that is towing a person, such as a water skier or tuber, must display a bright orange flag measuring not less than 12 inches per side. The flag must be displayed from the time the person to be towed leaves the boat until that person returns to the boat at the conclusion of the activity.
So far in 2014, there have been 16 reported boating fatalities on Illinois waterways. Increased boating safety education and responsible boating practices may have prevented many of these fatalities.
Governor Quinn has long been a supporter of the safe enjoyment of the Illinois outdoors. Last year he signed legislation strengthening the state’s Boat Registration and Safety Act to increase boating safety. Further, he signed legislation cracking down on those who boat while under the influence of alcohol by requiring a chemical test for drugs or alcohol where an injury is involved and imposing stiffer penalties.