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Water safety package heads to the governor

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State Senator Julie Morrison’s (D-Deerfield) water safety plan – the product of months of hearings, a careful study of other state’s best practices and bipartisan compromise – has passed the Illinois General Assembly. It now goes to the governor for his consideration.

“A few commonsense safety precautions can help keep Illinois’ waterways safe for children and families,” Morrison said. “We require people who drive cars to earn licenses. It’s only reasonable to require boat operators to have some basic training. We require people to use headlights when they drive at night. Flying flags when you’re towing an inner tuber or water skier serves the same purpose.”

The first part of the package is Senate Bill 2731, which requires boats that are towing inner tubers, water skiers or others to fly orange flags. Several other states, including Illinois neighbor Missouri, already have similar laws. Orange safety flags are widely available for $10 or less.

Another part of the plan, Senate Bill 3433, requires boat operators to hold safety certificates. The plan exempts renters, commercial fisherman and anyone born before 1990. It only applies to boats with more-than-10-horsepower motors. It also includes a provision to make sure that renters receive some training but still have access to state waterways.

The final piece of the package is Senate Bill 3434, which allows law enforcement officials to seize boats used in the commission of serious crimes. These crimes include operating a watercraft under the influence after your boat privileges have been suspended, operating a watercraft under the influence for the third time, and operating a watercraft under the influence and causing an accident that results in death.

A similar law is already in place for cars and other motor vehicles used in the commission of crimes.