Drew Smith

Drew Smith

Lexington, SC (FOX Carolina) - A South Carolina family is fighting to make our waterways safer with the help of an Upstate lawmaker and legislation aimed at boater education.

Randall and Karen Smith lost their 11-year-old son, Drew in a tragic boating accident and know first-hand how dangerous the water can be.

"It's important because our son was important. Our son is important," Karen Smith said.

Drew Smith was killed when a drunk boater slammed into his boat while fishing with his dad on Lake Murray.

"My son was killed in a boating accident in 1997. He was 11 years old. Our boat was struck by an impaired boater and I know first-hand what people are going through," Randall Smith said.

The Smiths have worked to strengthen boating laws since their son's death. 

In 1999, state lawmakers passed Drew's Law, but Randall Smith believes more needs to be done, "We have all of these requirements for all modes of transportation except for boats. Why?"

The Smiths are working to get senate bill S. 497 passed. The boating safety bill is aimed at educating younger boaters.

Senator Harvey Peeler, who represents South Carolina's District 14, co-sponsored the bill. 

It would require anyone born after July 1, 2006 to get a boating safety certificate before operating any boat with ten horsepower or more. 

According to DNR, 203 people were killed in boating accidents in South Carolina between 2009 and 2018.  The Smiths believe this new bill could help bring the number down.

"Over the course of the years I've unfortunately had the opportunity of meeting too many family members who have lost their loved ones due to boating accidents and most of it was caused by improper training," Randall Smith said, "I don't want to have to meet anymore."

The bill passed through the subcommittee last week and moves to the full Senate for the second reading on Tuesday.

Find out more about Bill 497: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/497.htm

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