Boaties face new booze laws

Booze and boats don't mix. That's the message coming from Sweden's justice minister Thomas Bodström, who wants to drastically reduce the legal alcohol limit for people in charge of boats.

“It’s wrong that we don’t have a clear rule for drunkenness on the waterways,” he told news agency TT. He wants the current limit for being found drunk in charge of a vessel to be reduced from 1.0 permille to between 0.2 and 0.5 permille.

Under current rules, anyone convicted of being drunk in charge of a vessel cam be sentenced to up to two years in prison. Drivers seen as a danger to themselves or others can be convicted even if they are below the legal limit.

The tightening of the rules will apply only to boats longer than seven metres (22 feet, 11 inches), and which have a maximum speed of more than seven knots. The proposal is intended to come into force next summer.

The law would mean that the coastguard and police would take regular breath tests from boaters, just as they do from car drivers.

A representative from the coastguard was on the committee which recommended the changes. Coastguard spokesman Dan Thorell said it was time the rules were changed. He said that breath tests would be taken when other controls are carried out.

“For example when we do speed checks, we will also do this. We’re not going to go out just to do alcohol tests,” he said.