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updated: 3/27/2014 4:18 PM

State committee advances boat safety changes

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  • Tony Borcia

    Tony Borcia

  • Julie Morrison

    Julie Morrison

By Zachary White

SPRINGFIELD -- To avoid accidents like the one that killed a Libertyville 10-year-old last year, boaters would have to display a flag when they're towing a water tuber or skier under a plan considered by the Illinois Senate Thursday.

A Senate committee approved the plan by a 4-0 vote, sending it to the full Senate.

"They shall display a bright orange or red flag when the person has entered the water, either fallen or is entering the boat," said state Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat.

Warning flags would have to be placed at the highest point of the helm.

This proposal, and another that tightens restrictions on watercraft operators, come in the aftermath of the 2012 death of 10-year-old Tony Borcia of Libertyville, who was killed after being hit by an impaired boater while tubing with his family on the Chain O' Lakes.

Morrison, Borcia's aunt, sponsored a law that passed last year that allows officials to take a driver's license away from a boater involved in a crash with injuries if the boater is above the legal drinking limit or refuses to submit to an alcohol test.

Meanwhile, the committee also approved Thursday a second Morrison plan that would keep many people from operating a motorboat with more than 10 horsepower unless they had a safety certificate.

As a bipartisan compromise, renters and people born before 1991 would be exempt, the idea being that more experienced boaters know the ropes. However, the bill has been changed frequently and that portion could be removed before the final vote.

Children between the ages of 10 and 18 would be able to operate those motorboats if they were in the presence of an adult who has a certificate. At the age of 12, children can get a certificate to operate one without onboard adult supervision.

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