New law cracks down on drunken drivers of snowmobiles, ATVs
Alan Geisenkoetter Jr. loved anything that ran with a motor — boats, lawn mowers, leaf blowers and electric mixers. His grandmother, Marybeth Lonnee, said the 8-year-old always vacuumed the house when he came to visit.
But it was the reckless use of a motor vehicle driven by a man who was allegedly drunk that cost the second-grader from Wyoming, Minn., his life, Lonnee said at a news conference Tuesday.
“He has left a dark spot in our family’s lives,” Lonnee said of Eric J. Coleman, 45, who was charged with third-degree murder, criminal vehicular homicide and drunken driving in the Chisago Lake crash last January that killed Alan. “He took a boy full of love, full of happiness, full of curiosity.”
On Tuesday, Lonnee fought back, appearing with family members, state legislators and representatives from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) at a news conference in St. Paul to promote “Little Alan’s Law,” a new measure that bans people convicted of driving drunk in a motor vehicle from operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or boat.
The law takes effect Wednesday and closes loopholes in a state statute that allowed drivers convicted of a DWI on the road to continue operating recreational vehicles.
Alan was setting up a fish house on Chisago Lake with his family about 8 p.m. Jan. 26 when he was struck by a snowmobile operated by Coleman, of Chisago City. The boy died a few days later.
Coleman’s blood alcohol level was 0.165 three hours after the crash, more than twice the legal limit, according to criminal charges. He had been charged with drunken driving three other times, had his license revoked and an ignition-locking system placed on his vehicle.
Under the new law, people convicted of a DWI while driving any vehicle, or those who refuse a field sobriety test, will lose their licenses and be prohibited from operating recreational vehicles for a year.
Additionally, first-time DWI offenders operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or boat will now be subject to the same chemical usage assessment, conditional release and plate impoundments as those caught driving drunk on the road.
“This legislation makes our roadways, trail systems and waterways much safer here in the state of Minnesota,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR’s enforcement division.
In all, Coleman faces seven charges in Chisago County District Court in connection with the case. He is free on bail until a jury trial scheduled for December.
Alan Geisenkoetter Sr., Alan Jr.’s father, who was also hit by the snowmobile, said Tuesday that he hopes the new law will compel drivers to be more responsible.
“Hopefully ... this will be the last time you ever have to hear about Alan’s law,” he said, urging Minnesotans to help prevent tragedies like the one that took his son.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4706