New boating safety laws that get tougher on boaters operating under the influence went into effect July 28.
The three-part legislation bill strengthens the state’s boating under the influence law by making the penalty a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail. Additionally, the law allows for implied consent, meaning an officer can require a boat operator to take a breath or blood test if the officer believes the operator is boating under the influence, said a State Parks and Recreation news release. If the operator refuses, that person could be issued a $1,000 civil infraction.
The law also gives marine law enforcement officers the ability to hold negligent or reckless boaters accountable and the authority to issue citations for vessel accidents they did not witness. Now, when an officer is investigating a vessel accident, such as a vessel-to-vessel collision, and it’s determined a boat operator caused the accident by breaking a boating safety law, the officer can arrest the operator for criminal violations or issue a citation for an infraction, according to the release.
“Washington has a long history of being a maritime state. We need to keep boating safe and fun, and this legislation will help us do that,” State Parks Director Don Hoch said in the release.
“The cultural, economic and recreational significance of Washington state waterways can’t be overemphasized. Likewise, neither can boating safety. This measure provides law enforcement with additional tools and strengthens our commitment to limiting tragedies on waterways,” Bruce Bjork, chief of police for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in the release.
According to data from State Parks, alcohol is a factor in 30 percent of boating fatalities. The law change was intended to deter boating under the influence by increasing the penalty and introducing implied consent in the form of a monetary penalty – not tied to the driver’s license.
For more information on boating regulations, visit boat.wa.gov.