Bill establishes boating safety certificate requirements
Summer boating accidents in the Long Island Sound and Hudson River communities have propelled renewed efforts by New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Sen. David Carlucci to pass their legislation promoting greater safety for boaters and the boating public in New York.
The bill (A.3471/S.1639) requires all mechanically propelled vessel operators to obtain a boating safety certificate by completing an eight-hour safe boating course. The requirement would be implemented through a multiyear phase-in beginning in 2014 with 18-year-olds. This legislation would help eliminate the dangers of boating often attributed to inexperience by requiring boat operators to take a course and become aware of all safety and legal aspects of operating a boat.
New York’s boating safety standards are behind other states. Both Connecticut and New Jersey, neighboring states sharing New York’s waterways, require boat operators to have safety certificates, and 30 other states also have greater safety requirements for boaters.
The lack of boating safety requirements in New York has led to higher fatality rates in recent years most commonly due to carelessness and operators’ ignorance, with many of these accidents involving the use of alcohol. Because the high dangers of alcohol on the road have translated onto New York waterways, operators should consider water navigation safety as seriously as traffic laws on the road.
A prank gone wrong last summer involved a boat operator who drove away while Ossining resident Bryan Johnson, 26, had temporary left the boat to go swimming, leaving him stranded and helpless. The incident received widespread coverage over the apparent drowning that ensued.
According to data from the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation from 2010, 27 people were killed in boating accidents and a further 128 injured. That was an increase from 21 people killed and 78 injured in 2009, and the highest number of people killed in boating accidents since 2003, when 34 people died.
There were 243 boating accidents in 2010, with Long Island being the site of the largest number of accidents. The five counties of New York City had 13 accidents, and three accidents happened in Rockland County, all of them on the Hudson River.
The New York state-approved boating safety course is currently required for all personal watercraft (jet skis) operators. Approved boat safety courses are provided free of charge and for charge through a variety of venues including New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadron, various municipalities and local boat clubs.
Under current New York state law, boating safety certificates may be obtained by completing a New York State Boating Course. Persons are required to hold safety certificates if they operate a personal watercraft and are at least 14 years of age.
Persons who are less than 10 years old may operate a vessel — not a personal watercraft (PWC) — only if someone over 18 is on board with them. Anyone may operate a personal watercraft if someone at least 18 years old with a boating safety certificate or exemption is supervising.