Legislation that would increase penalties for boating while intoxicated is set to go before the State Senate for a vote.
State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., R, Merrick, announced on Wednesday that his boating safety bill has been approved by the Senate Transportation Committee.
The law, if passed, would list boating while under the influence with a child on board as a class E felony, similar to driving drunk in a car; create mandatory suspension of boating privileges for DUI offenders; and require a mandatory driver license suspension for BUI offenders.
"Whether they drive a car, a boat, or any other vehicle, drunk drivers put the lives and safety of others at risk," said Fuschillo, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. "Our laws must be changed to reflect that, and ensure there's parallel progress between removing drunk drivers from the roads and waterways."
Fuschillo's legislation would also require all boaters to complete a boating safety course in order to operate a vessel unsupervised. Under state law adults do not currently need any formal boating safety training - although 23 states including New Jersey and Connecticut require operators to have boating safety certificate.
Under a new law, however, boaters in Suffolk County are now required to complete a safety course or face fines.
West Islip's Michelle Mannino, whose husband Christopher was killed in the waters off Captree Island last June when the boat he was riding on was broadsided by a powerboat, has come out in support of Fuschillo's legislation.
"No family should have their loved one taken away from them by a drunk driver the way Christopher was taken away from us," Mannino said in a written statement. "If strengthening the BUI and boating safety laws will prevent even one tragedy, then that’s more than enough reason to act."
A Dix Hills man, who police said was drunk while operating the powerboat that slammed into the fishing boat Mannino was on, has pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in that incident.
Three children also died last Summer when they drowned after powerboat they were riding in capsized in the waters off Oyster Bay.