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|Officials, family recognize 'Trey Altick Bill'|
A ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 232 was held Friday in Monroe with friends and family of Neville High School junior James "Trey" Altick III, who died last year following a jet ski accident on Bayou DeSiard.
House Bill 232, authored by Rep. M.J. Smiley and co-authored by Sen. Bob Kostelka, mandates that the operator of any watercraft involved in a collision or crash, in which a fatality occurs, must undergo a chemical test for use of alcohol, drugs or any other impairing substances.
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said the department refers to the legislation as the Trey Altick bill.
"We were all shocked and saddened with the tragic loss of this young man," Barham said. "It brought attention to the dangers of using watercraft in Louisiana."
One of the "foremost issues" involving watercraft accidents today is the use of alcohol, Barham said.
"In a motor vehicle accident, if someone dies, the operators of those vehicles are required by law to submit to blood analysis to see if any drugs, alcohol or any impairing substances are in their system at the time of the accident," Barham said.
Prior to the passage of the Trey Altick bill, those involved in a watercraft accident were not required by law to submit to a blood analysis.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is the primary agency charged with handling watercraft accidents in the state.
Barham said there are more than 17,000 linear miles of roads in Louisiana. In comparison, there are more than 41,000 linear miles of waterways in the state.
"That doesn't include the coastal zone, the estuaries and the lakes of Louisiana," Barham explained. "This is a state of water, and, according to the latest survey, some 2.2 million people will be in a boat this year. That's half the population of Louisiana."
Roughly 30 people die in watercraft accidents each year in Louisiana, Barham said.
About 25 percent of those people had consumed an impairing substance prior to boarding a watercraft, according to Barham.
The state is on pace to have a record-setting year of fatalities. So far, 18 people have died in water accidents in 2009.
"If we can save one life in Louisiana, the impact of this bill will be very significant," Barham said.
Kostelka added, "Unfortunately, Rep. Smiley and I brought bills for the same reason - tragic deaths in our area on the waterways. We've got to remember that people will do things when recreating in a boat that they will not do in a car. They wouldn't think of loading up a car with kids and a case of beer, but they do it on boats all the time. So people have to stop and think. We hope this will have lasting effects, and the best effect it will have is to wake up people to the problem."
The bill was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal. It goes into effect Aug. 15.