July 28, 2012, is a date that is burned into state Sen. Julie Morrison’s memory.
On that day, her 10-year-old nephew, Tony Borcia, was killed in a boating accident that shouldn’t have happened.
Since then, Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, has been on a mission to enact laws to prevent the type of accident that claimed Tony’s life.
On July 5, Morrison succeeded when three bills she sponsored were signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn.
Two laws deal directly with the 2012 fatality, while a third involves general boating safety.
Tony was being pulled on an inner tube behind a boat on Petite Lake on the Chain O’ Lakes when he fell off and then, while bobbing in the water, was struck and killed by a drunken boater.
One of Morrison’s laws cracks down on boaters who operate watercraft while under the influence. It brings penalties for OUI – the marine equivalent of DUI – closer in line with DUI offenses. Repeat offenders on the water now stand to lose their boats.
The second law will increase the on-water visibility of tubers and water skiers. Boats towing a skier or tuber will have to display an orange flag at least 1-foot square on the boat’s highest point as long as the person is in the water. That way, oncoming boat operators will be alerted and can be on the lookout.
A third law will require people born after Jan. 1, 1998, to earn and possess a safety certificate from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in order to operate watercraft with an engine having more than 10 horsepower.
We salute Sen. Morrison’s dedication to preventing future accidents on Illinois lakes, rivers and streams.
The new laws come none too soon. As of July 5, Illinois waterways had recorded 16 boating fatalities this year.
The new laws won’t take effect until Jan. 1, but boaters need not wait until then to begin using orange warning flags while pulling skiers and tubers and to otherwise rededicate themselves to boating safety.
The fewer tragic dates that are burned into our collective memories, the better.