The Senate is no longer unanimously in favor of allowing wider boats on North Carolina highways.
“When I voted for this I made a mistake,” Sen. Ed W. Jones, a retired state trooper from Halifax County, said on the Senate floor this morning as the Senate prepared to join the House in overriding Gov. Mike Easley's veto of HB 2167.
Jones said it was wrong to give a favored group of drivers — boaters — the right to pull trailers wider than those allowed for other vehicles.
“Would we be having this bill here if we were talking about someone having a 10 foot trailer to haul watermelons or to haul trash down the highway?
“Are we now looking at a certain class of folks that we are here to serve? I say we shouldn’t do that,” Jones said. He cited a recent increase in North Carolina traffic deaths.
“We should be doing something to curtail that and not to promote that. ... We didn’t ask for all trailers, just for boats. If it wasn’t that bad, we should be asking for all trailers to be 10 feet wide.
“But we know there’s some risk there. We all know that. I hope we do not endanger the citizens of North Carolina because of the whim of a few,” Jones said.
Marc Basnight, the Senate leader, said Jones was wrong. Wide boat trailers have been involved in only two or three accidents in the past three years, Basnight said.
“We can get no documentation that says anything that has occurred in the past has proven to us that it is dangerous.
“The boater you read about in today’s paper, that came from Florida to North Carolina and was ticketed for being too wide, was not stopped in Florida or Georgia or South Carolina. He had freely towed his boat to tournaments in [other states]," Basnight said.
“That citation ... did stop the possibility of continuation of a tournament that was popular and good for North Carolina, with no accidents. ...
“These are responsible people that tow very expensive boats,” Basnight said.
Jones said he wanted to pair his "no" vote with a "yes" vote by absent Sen. Doug Berger (correcting the Senator's name from original post). The Senate vote was recorded as unanimous, 39 to 0.
There were a few "no" votes in the House, but there was no debate. House members politely listened to a reading of Easley’s warning that the new law to relax safety limits on the widths of boat trailers would produce deadly collisions on narrow, dark state roads.
Then they rode over his veto.
“This is not a safety issue. This is an issue of economics and tourism,” said Rep. Arthur Williams of Washington, the sponsor of House Bill 2167. He cited boating industry job losses this year.
The House voted 93 to 7.