Maybe it's too late to turn the tide of overhwhelming Senate (43-0) and House (108-5) support, but AAA Carolinas called on legislators today to uphold Gov. Mike Easley's veto of a bill to relax safety limits on boaters who tow wide boats down narrow roads at night.
The legislature will return to Raleigh Wednesday to consider Easley's veto.
Bryan Beatty, Easley's secretary of crime control and public safety, urged legislators to let the veto stand and wait until next year to work out issues surrounding the bill. He disputed claims that state troopers had issued large numbers of tickets to boaters for violating a law that had been widely ignored and violated for years.
"Last year, Troopers investigated 300 collisions involving motorists transporting boats," Beatty said in e-mails to news organizations. "During 2007, Troopers issued five over width violations to motorists transporting non-commercial boat trailers statewide.
"By comparison, Troopers issued more than 900,000 citations for all violations during 2007. Clearly, Troopers have not targeted boaters."
Rep. Arthur Williams of Washington, N.C., sponsored the bill to relax state limits on the width of boats that fishermen and other recreational boaters can haul on state roads. It would allow boats up to 9.5 feet wide, day or night — and up to 10 feet wide during daylight hours only.
Current law OKs boats up to 8.5 feet wide, day or night, without permits. Motorists now can get permits to haul boats up to 10 feet wide — but not on holidays or Sundays or at night.
“This legislation sailed through the legislature without adequate attention given to the interests of traffic safety,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Boat owners have rights, just like motorists, and the legislature’s responsibility is to listen to both sides and develop laws that protect everyone’s interests. Our state’s poor record on overall traffic safety requires that attention to balance. ...
“The good safety record for towing boats that the state has enjoyed will be threatened if this veto is overturned and overlarge boats can travel state roads at anytime,” Parsons noted. “Those boat owners who tow their boats will represent a hazard to oncoming motorists, as well as themselves.”
The Highway Patrol and Easley have warned of increased crashes, especially at night, involving boats wider than 9.5 feet on roads and bridges with travel lanes sometimes less than 9 feet wide. AAA posted a Highway Patrol video clip endorsing Easley's veto.
Supporters said the measure could keep North Carolina from scaring off out-of-state sportsmen who visit popular fishing tournaments here. Sen. Marc Basnight, the Senate leader, said it would help the state protect boat-manufacturing jobs.