Michelle Mannino’s life was forever changed when her husband Christopher was in a boating under the influence (BUI) accident in the Great South Bay on June 23.
On Thursday morning, the West Islip woman appeared side by side with lawmakers at a press conference in Wantagh calling for stronger BUI and boater safety laws to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.
“It’s long past time to strengthen the BUI laws,” said Mannino during Thursday’s press conference hosted by State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick at the Marina. “With the rise in boating injuries and recent boating fatalities involving alcohol, we’re seeing tragedies repeat themselves and it has to stop.”
Senator Fuschillo said Thursday he will be introducing new boating safety legislation that would raise BUI penalties and require safety training for anyone who operates a boat. Fuschillo emphasized that while New York State has some of the nation’s toughest laws for driving while intoxicated offenses, BWI laws have not kept pace.
“Boats operated by intoxicated individuals are as dangerous a weapon as cars driven by drunk drivers,” said Fuschillo, who is Chairman of the State Senate’s Transportation Committee. “Stronger BUI laws will make people think twice before operating a boat under the influence, help remove intoxicated boat operators from the waterways, and ensure that they face tougher penalties for endangering the lives of others.”
Fuschillo said the legislation he will be introducing in Albany would:
- Allow intoxicated boaters to face Class E felony charges if they had a child on the boat, just as they would if they were driving a car.
- Create the charge of aggravated BUI for boaters with a blood alcohol level of .18 or higher, just as currently exists for driving under the influence offenses.
- Create mandatory boating privilege suspensions for BUI offenders
- Require s mandatory driver license suspension for BUI offenders
- Ensure that DUI, BUI and snowmobiling under the influence (SUI) offenses are linked together when determining whether an individual is a repeat alcohol offender.
Other lawmakers who joined Fuschillo in calling for the tougher boating safety laws Thursday were State Assemblyman David McDonough, R-North Merrick, and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
The Nassau County Police Department's Marine Bureau has made five arrests for BUI in 2012 including this past Sunday evening after not realizing two of his passengers had gone overboard near before they were out of his sight. Another area BUI incident occurred in Massapequa Park on July 3 when John McKnight of Massapequa Park after crashing into an elderly woman’s dock.