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Lower alcohol limits seen as a 'no-brainer'
Bill would bring boating, hunting in line with DUI
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Forsyth County News

Whether hunting, driving or boating, state legislators are working to level the playing field when alcohol is involved.

Drivers must have a 0.08 blood alcohol level to be considered over the limit. But hunters and boaters aren't considered legally under the influence until they reach 0.10.

This came as a surprise to District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, co-sponsor of legislation to hold hunters and boaters to the same 0.08 blood alcohol standard as drivers.

"I thought this was already a law," said Murphy, a Republican from Cumming. "We need to have the same laws with boating because it's just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than automobiles because a lot of times you can't control your boat like you can your automobile.

"And I absolutely don't think you need to be hunting, carrying a loaded weapon, and drinking. That's a no-brainer."

Senate Bill 71 was authored by Sen. Bill Heath, a Bremen Republican who learned about the disparity from a hunter in his district.

Tallapoosa resident Andy Johnson stumbled on the discrepancy while doing research for a hunter safety course.

"It didn't seem to make any sense to me as to why this would be higher for boating under the influence or hunting under the influence than what our current state statutes are set for driving under the influence on our highways," he said.

Johnson said he first turned to the Department of Natural Resources, through which he teaches hunting classes, then informed Heath. After receiving support from the department, Johnson said Heath drafted the bill.

Johnson, a lifelong hunter, said his 1- and 3-year-old sons played a role in his determination.

"I see their desire to get into the woods and out into the water, but they're so new to the aspect of hunting and fishing, we need to protect them as much as possible, without over-governance," he said.

"This is my attempt to be involved with our legislative system, my attempt to give back and make sure our safety in the lakes and in the woods is as safe as possible."

Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said the county doesn't have much of a recent history with hunters being over the legal limit, though boating on Lake Lanier is a different story.

"We certainly do have a lot of exposure during the season with people boating under the influence," Paxton said.

"We've all heard and seen the horror stories over the years of boating accidents occurring on the lake and waterways, and many times those do involve alcohol.

"I would certainly be in full support of that particular bill ... I think anything you can do to make it consistent across the board would certainly make it easier for everybody to understand."

Murphy, who lives on Lanier and has seen his share of incidents involving intoxicated boaters, said the bill likely won't face much opposition in the senate.

"I have personally over the years observed at least four accidents that occurred in my cove, and all four times it was due to excessive drinking," he said.

"I saw a lady run into my neighbor's dock. She ran her boat slap up, at full speed, on his dock and came up wanting to use the phone in my house. And she was drunk as a skunk.

"With all the accidents we've had on Lake Lanier ... this is just a no-brainer."