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Stricter drunk boating laws taking effect in Michigan

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Morgue File

A package of stricter laws to prevent drunk boating has just taken effect in Michigan. 

The laws lower blood alcohol limits for people driving boats on Michigan waterways – and provide stricter penalties for violators.

Tony Wickersham, the Macomb County sheriff, said the new limit has gone from .10 percent to .08 percent,  and it matches the standard for drunk driving. 

People under 21 years of age may not operate a boat with any alcohol in their systems.

"We want to make sure that people are operating safely," said Wickersham. "And if they're going to operate a vessel, that they're not operating under the influence." 

Wickersham said most serious boating accidents involve alcohol.

The new standards also apply to snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.

"The message that we're sending to our fellow citizens and to our tourists is that we take alcohol abuse seriously in these areas," said state Rep. Dave Pagel, R-78th District, who co-sponsored the legislation. 

Pagel said there can be a tendency to put alcohol together with recreation. But he said if you are operating a boat or off-road vehicle for recreation,  you should be subject to the same alcohol limits as if you were driving a car.