What: Boating Safety Awareness Day
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 18
Where: Sunset Cove at Lake Lanier Islands
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-503-7757
A couple of organizations that sprang out of last summer’s Lake Lanier tragedies still are forging ahead, notwithstanding successes during the past Georgia General Assembly.
The Lake Lanier Water Safety Alliance “was certainly interested in what was happening with the legislation this year, but legislation has not been our primary focus,” said Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Gainesville-based Lake Lanier Association, which formed the alliance as part of its “safe lake” focus.
Instead, the group is particularly focusing on “education and awareness of safety issues within the community.”
The alliance is teaming up with Lake Lanier Islands Resort and Team Georgia, a safe and sober driving coalition, to sponsor Boating Safety Awareness Day on May 18 at Sunset Cove at the islands.
The event, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature giveaways and safety-related information distributed by area law enforcement, lake partners and lake merchants, according to a flier. Also, safe boating decals will be given to boaters to place on their vessels’ dashboards.
The alliance and the Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus took off last year particularly in the wake of deaths of three children in two highly publicized incidents.
The alliance joined with government and marine-based organizations around Lanier to promote general water safety. Its first meeting on July 31 drew representatives from such groups and agencies as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Marine Trade Association, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Barefoot Sailing Club.
State lawmakers formed the caucus to discuss such issues as boating safety, lake levels and water-related legislation. They had several meetings and public hearings.
Last month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law new boating safety regulations at the Holiday Marina.
The bill created the “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law,” and the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law,” taking effect May 15.
The new laws lower the legal limit of blood alcohol to .08 percent for someone operating a water vessel — the same standard for operating a car — and imposes escalated penalties for repeat offenders similar to driving under the influence laws.
There are also new boater education requirements, stricter life jacket rules, and the bill clarifies the ages and types of boats and watercraft that teenagers and children under 12 years old may operate. The education requirement doesn’t kick until in 2014.
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said last week he expects the caucus to continue meeting on a regularly scheduled basis.
“We do not have any imminent legislation,” he said.
“My belief is less government is better government, and we can’t legislate common sense and common courtesy,” Miller said. “We don’t need to be the nanny state, trying to take care of everybody’s single concern.”
He added: “We’re in an absolutely wonderful position for a terrific tourist season on Lake Lanier, and we would hope that the legislation that’s been passed would enhance that experience for all concerned.”
Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who has served as the group’s chairwoman, said another meeting hasn’t been scheduled.
She said the group is considering some kind of event to mark the legislative accomplishments, among other things.
Cloud said that other initiatives the alliance is working on include a program for placing solar lights on some of the buoys and hazard markers around the lake, increasing awareness of boater education courses and providing incentives for completion of courses.