Driving safely imperative on the roads or water

In an otherwise contentious legislative session, at least one measure has met with widespread approval: toughening Lousiaina’s boating-safety rules, especially where recreational boating is concerned.

The House has passed, and the Senate is considering, a bill by state Rep. Nickie Monica, R-LaPlace. Monica’s bill, House Bill 636, would take the privilege of operating a boat on Louisiana waterways from those who lose their driving privileges because of drunken driving. The law also would raise the age below which boaters must wear Coast Guard-approved flotation devices from 12 to 16.

Monica had a personal motivation for introducing the bill. Last year, five young people died in a boating crash in St. James Parish. Monica told a Baton Rouge TV station that he knew each of the victims.

While the bill was being introduced, a Lafayette man turned himself in to Pointe Coupee authorities over his role in a May 16 boating accident on False River. He was operating a boat that collided with another, killing three people and seriously injuring another. The Lafayette man was found to have had a blood-alcohol content of 0.10. The legal limit is 0.08 to 0.02 for those under 21 – just as it is for those who drive automobiles.

Less than a week after that accident, while Monica’s bill was still under consideration in the House, five people died when a boat collided with a barge in the Falgout Canal in Terrebonne Parish.

We can’t deny that rivers, lakes, bayous, bays and the Gulf of Mexico itself are treasured parts of our natural history. This time of year makes us feel like children who hear the last bell before summer vacation. We’re free at last to do some fishing and water-skiing. Or maybe we just want to let the Spanish moss drift by overhead.

But, as we’re gradually learning to do on our roads, we’re going to have to learn to temper our joie de vivre with common sense. We have to be smarter than we used to be and try to make sure that our children are smarter still. That means, at a minimum, forgoing the booze when other people’s lives are in our hands.

And the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries noted recently that many of Louisiana’s boating deaths could be prevented by the use of personal-flotation devices.

The Senate should follow the House’s lead and make a strong statement that those who operate boats must be responsible for their safety and the safety of others.

– The Advertiser, Lafayette, La.