water sports

DWI Tragedy Changes Minnesota Boating And Recreation Laws

Recreational and water sports are exceptionally popular in the United States. More than 12.7 million households in the U.S. own boats. Add in snowmobiles, ATVs, dirtbikes, and any other manner of recreational vehicle and you’ll find the number is even more vast. An unfortunate user disconnect regarding safety is that there is an assumption that these vehicles are less dangerous and shouldn’t be held to the same safety standards as vehicles on the road.

Even more unfortunate is that this attitude, exacerbated by alcohol, has sown tragedy across recreational activities meant to bring joy. Such is theĀ case in Minnesota. Earlier this year, 45-year-old Eric Coleman was driving a snowmobile at night when he hit the Giesenkoetter family’s ice-fishing shelter, killing 8-year-old Alan Giesenkoetter.

Coleman was found with alcohol in his system above twice the legal limit. He had two previous DWI convictions and was in the midst of facing a third one when he hit the 8-year-old.

“He killed a little boy because he has no control over his drug and alcohol addiction. It’s just not his problem. He has made it our problem and our sorrow,” said the victim’s grandmother, Marybeth Lonnee.

This tragedy magnified the number of Minnesota DWI law loopholes. Most notably, that DWI offenses on the road didn’t carry any restrictions on recreational vehicles like boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc. The new law tightens restrictions and makes DWI offenses the same, regardless of whether driving on the road or recreationally. Beyond that, the “not one drop” (zero tolerance) law for drivers under 21 applies to all vehicles road driven and recreational.

“‘No I’m out having fun on my water crafter on my snowmobile and I shouldn’t be held to the same standard.’ But make no mistake, people see that recreational vehicles can kill people just as easily as … any other traditional motor vehicle,” Head of the Department of Natural Resources, Rodmen Smith noted on the attitude of recreational drivers.

Whatever your recreational passion is, responsible practices are paramount to your safety and the safety of those around you. From wakesurfing and wakeboarding tips to water sports, land sports, and everything from buying boat accessories to ripping around in your snowmobile when it’s colder, there are user responsibilities that stand to make recreational sports safer.