- Associated Press - Saturday, July 5, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn approved several laws aimed at increasing boater safety Saturday during a holiday weekend when many Illinois residents are out on lakes and rivers.

The Chicago Democrat signed the three measures at a ceremony on the shores of Lake Michigan. The new measures require safety courses, create rules for towing people on water tubes or skis and impose stricter boater DUI penalties. All the laws take effect in 2015.

“Over this Fourth of July weekend, it’s important that all residents stay safe while celebrating,” Quinn said. “While boating is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, everyone has to take precautions and follow the rules.”

State officials have reported 16 boating fatalities on Illinois waterways so far this year. Supporters say the new laws could have prevented many of these deaths.

Among the new rules is legislation that brings boater DUI penalties closer in line with car-related offenses. People who are convicted of three boat DUIs or those caught operating a watercraft with revoked licenses could have their boats taken away. The penalty also applies to those previously convicted of reckless homicide or accidental death or injury.

“Boats are every bit as dangerous as cars, and boat operators should be held to the same standard as drivers,” state Sen. Julie Morrison said. The Deerfield Democrat sponsored the legislation.

Additionally, boaters towing a person must display a foot-long orange flag while the rider is in the water. It must be placed on the boat’s highest point from the time a person leaves the boat until they finish skiing or tubing.

And beginning in 2016, residents born after Jan. 1, 1998, must hold a safety certificate from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in order to operate a watercraft with a more than 10 horsepower engine.

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The bills are SB2731, SB3433 and SB3434.

Online: http://www.ilga.gov

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