Boating is a favored pastime in Chicago during the warmer months, but unfortunately it can also be dangerous. In fact, the US Coast Guard Recreational boating statistics indicate that there were a total of 101 boating accidents in the state in 2012, including 15 fatal accidents and 17 deaths.
Last year, one of these boating accidents caused the death of a 10-year-old boy named Tony who was on the Chain O' Lakes when he was hit by a drunken boater. Our Chicago boat accident lawyers know that this young boy's death had a profound impact not just on his family but also on legislative policy in the state of Illinois. This is because Governor Quinn recently signed a new law called "Tony's Law" related to drunken boating.
New Law Related to Drunken Boating
According to CBS Local Chicago, Tony's Law was signed by the governor in late July, around a year after the boating accident that cost the young boy his life. The governor and the boy's mother appeared together at a press conference to announce the new law, which will require any boater who is involved in a serious accident to consent to a test for drugs or alcohol. A serious accident is defined as one that causes death or grave harm.
The victim's mother was instrumental in helping to get Tony's Law passed and has reported that she is filling the hole in her heart left by the loss of her son by advocating for stronger boating laws.
Tony's law is a good start as it could deter drunken boaters and make it easier for accident victims to get justice after a boating accident. Alcohol is a major problem on the waterways, with the U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics reporting that alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating wrecks. The Coast Guard data shows that alcohol is a leading cause of as many as 17 percent of boating accident deaths.
In Illinois alone, alcohol contributed to:
- 13 of the boating accidents that occurred in 2012, down from the five-year highs of 18 in 2010 and 2011.
- Five boating fatalities in 2012, down from a five-year high of nine in 2010.
- Ten injuries from boating accidents, down from a five year high of 18 in 2010.
Consuming alcohol before operating a boat increases the chances of an accident or fatalities occurring, just as it does in cars. As such, the same BAC limit applies to boating as it does to driving: a boater can be charged with boating under the influence if his BAC is above .08 or if he is impaired and unable to drive safely due to being drunk or on drugs.
Tony's Law can help to ensure that boaters are held accountable if they cause harm when they break the rules on alcohol and boats. Since victims of boating crashes or surviving family members can take legal action to recover compensation from negligent boaters, the new law may also make it easier for injured victims to prove negligence and recover the monetary damages they deserve.
If you've been hurt in a boating accident, contact Chicago personal injury attorneys at Coplan & Crane at (800) 394-6002 for a free case evaluation.