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Pa. legislature moves to up penalty for boating under influence

The Associated Press
Activity on the Susquehanna River during Susquehanna National Heritage Area River Discovery Tours in July 2019.

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvanians caught boating under the influence could face stiffer penalties as support for stricter laws grows in the state Legislature.

The House and a Senate committee passed a measure that would make the penalties for people driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs similar to those imposed for driving a car under the influence, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

“Boating is about family,” said Linda Hemmes, of Kittanning, who has boated on the Allegheny River for nearly 60 years. “But I’ve seen some adults drink and put the kids in the boat, and off they go.”

More:HEISER: Don't let boating and booze sink a good time on the water

The legislation particularly focuses on those boating with minors on board, according to Tabitha S. Hummer, legislative director for Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee.

If the legislation passes, boating under the influence with a minor on board would carry a fine ranging from $1,500 to $10,000, or imprisonment not exceeding five years, or both. Currently offenders face a minimum fine of $1,000 and 100 hours of community service for the first offense.

According to the Fish and Boat Commission, there were 45 boating under the influence arrests in 2019.

In 2018, around 20% of boating fatalities were drug- or alcohol-related, according to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Upgrading and clarifying the possible ramifications for boating under the influence and educating boaters about the costs will improve safety for all who use our waterways,” said Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, the minority chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee.