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GUEST EDITORIAL: Problems with the SCDNR’s enforcement of BUI laws

Lexington, SC - (Randall Smith) - My name is Randall Smith and I am the father of Drew Smith. Drew was born on June 6, 1986. He died on the waters of Lake Murray in the early morning hours of July 19, 1997. He was 11 years old.

While night fishing with my son, our boat was run over by an impaired boater and Drew was killed. After the accident, and I hate to call it an accident, I learned our boating laws were very inadequate and had not been updated in twenty years. At that time, the maximum penalty for BUI involving a death, manslaughter, was only 5 years in prison but at the same time, a DUI involving a death, felony DUI, was punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

My wife and I in an effort to save others, lobbied our state legislators to strengthen the boating laws of our state. We were successful and the Boating Safety Act of 1999, more commonly known as ‘’Drew’s Law,” was passed.

In the early years after the passage of Drew’s Law, the number of accidents and deaths on our waterways declined dramatically. As time went on however, I noticed the numbers increasing. I asked why. Then over the past few years, I have seen BUI cases thrown out of court as well as suspects not being tested for blood alcohol content at all. Because of this, I did a survey of our neighboring southern states.

I am a board member of the South Carolina Crime Victims’ Council. Please understand, my wife and I have vigorously supported the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and have since our involvement in changing the boating laws back in 1999. Part of Drew’s Law included on-going additional funding to the Law Enforcement Division of the department by increasing boat registration fees. This increase, totaling millions of dollars annually, goes directly to the Law Enforcement Division. The Marine Law Enforcement Center on Lake Murray is named in honor of our son Drew.

It saddens me greatly to have to bring this matter to the public's attention. As a couple, we also feel that what has been allowed to happen shows disrespect for all the work my wife and I have done in an effort to make our waterways safer.

I have attached a copy of the survey complete with references, contact names, email addresses and phone numbers for all four states surveyed. Please review these and see what we saw.

SURVEY: Survey on Boating Safety

I am also providing links to two YouTube videos filmed on Lake Murray and Santee showing the problems with impaired boaters on our lakes. Please watch these videos widely distributed on YouTube.

Warning: These videos may be offensive to some adults and are inappropriate for viewing by small children.

1. Best of 2013 Lake Murray party GoPro

2. Lake party and river run in South Carolina

My wife and I appreciate your reading this and watching the problem as we see it. If you are interested in what any of us can do to help strengthen the enforcement of “Drew’s Law” and boating safety in general, please feel free to contact us in the following ways:

Randall William Smith, Sr.

SCCVC Boating Safety Committee

1900 Broad River Road

Columbia, SC 29210-7047

Laura Hudson

Executive Director SCCVC & SCVAN

1900 Broad River Road

Columbia, SC 29210-7047

Editor’s Note: This is a guest editorial and all of its content was submitted by the author. It reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lexington Ledger or its staff. We do not necessarily condemn the consumption of alcohol as long as it is done in a safe and lawful manner. If you would like to submit a guest editorial for review and for consideration to publish, please review the guidelines on the OPINION page of thelexingtonledger.com. Just navigate through the menu to the page labeled OPINION.

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