Michigan House Passes Bill to Crack Down on Drinking and Boating

By: Marcie Kobriger Email
By: Marcie Kobriger Email

A nice summer day brings boaters and beach goers to Michigan’s lakes and shore lines.

“I come up here to do some fishing,” says Kevin Miller, who was boating on Lake Donnell today.

Glenda Ormiscon was also on the lake.

She tells us, “We ride around the lake enjoy the scenery.”

Boaters in Michigan have also been able to enjoy more cocktails on water than they would on land.

The legal limit for blood alcohol content is .1 on Michigan waterways, unlike the .08 when you are behind the wheel on land.

The Michigan state house passed a bill today, which would lower the blood alcohol content limit for boaters.

.02 might not sound like a lot, but it is enough to make a difference, and it would have two years ago, when seven-year-old Ryan Zielinski was killed by a jet skier.

The little boy’s father, Joe Zielinski tells us, “The kids were being pulled behind the tube by a neighbor’s boat. Two guys on jet skis were being very reckless going very close to the boat.”

Cass County Prosecutor, Victor Fitz, finishes the story. “He was looking behind him rather than in front of him going about 80 miles an hour. When he looked forward he saw the boat in front of him and he swerved to the left to avoid it, and there were three tubes. He landed on the third tube. Ryan Zielinski was killed instantly.”

The jet skier blew a .08 -- enough to press charges of manslaughter on land, but not on water.

Little Ryan’s story has been a rallying point for those who support lowering the threshold and balancing out the law.

“A life on the waterways in Michigan seems to be less valuable than a life on the highways. We’re trying to save lives here,” Fitz says.

Joe Zielinski is happy the bill made it past the house. “All I could really hope for this not to happen again to somebody.”

Today's vote marks the third time the bill has been passed in the state house since it was introduced in 2003.

It has yet to make it past the senate.

It will go before the state senate in the next few weeks.

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