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May 28, 1999


ANTIOCH -- Governor George H. Ryan today signed legislation to extend the definition of reckless homicide to include deaths caused by the intentionally reckless operation of watercraft, snowmobiles or all terrain vehicles.

"As we celebrate the Memorial Day weekend and visit the parks, lakes and streams of Illinois to spend time with our families, we must ask everyone to act safely and responsibly," Ryan said. "Unfortunately, there are several accidents each year in Illinois because of the reckless operation of boats and other recreational vehicles that result in innocent passengers or bystanders being killed. Anyone who causes these accidents must be held accountable for their actions."

Current law provides that the reckless operation of a motor vehicle which results in death is classified as reckless homicide. Senate Bill 739 amends the criminal code to make the reckless operation of a snowmobile, all terrain vehicle or watercraft that results in death equal to the reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

"Boaters should be held accountable to the same laws as drivers where drinking or drugs are concerned," said Senator Geo-Karis. "There have been too many accidents on the Chain O'Lakes where innocent people have been injured or killed by impaired boaters. Why should boating under the influence be any different than driving under the influence? The risks are just as great. A life is something we cannot recapture."

In 1998, there were 176 reported recreational boating accidents in Illinois that killed 19 people. More than 90 percent of the boat crashes on the state's rivers and lakes last year occurred between May and September, and 83 percent of the crashes last year occurred during weekend -- on clear days with slightly choppy waters. Almost 60 percent of the crashes involved boats hitting one another or a fixed object.

Senate Bill 739 was sponsored by state Senators Adeline Geo-Karis (R-Zion), Margaret Smith (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Andrea Moore (R-Libertyville). The legislation, strongly supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, takes effect January 1, 2000.


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