For Immediate Release Contact: Sandy Galef – (518) 455-5348
May 20, 2013 Jason Elan (Carlucci) – (516) 426-6977
Assemblywoman Galef, Senator Carlucci
Introduce Boating Safety Legislation
Bill Establishes Boating Safety Certificates for an Increasingly Hazardous Recreation
Albany, NY- Summer boating accidents in the Long Island Sound and impacted Hudson River communities have propelled renewed efforts by New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Senator 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.
“As a legislator I want to make sure our laws protect all those who enjoy New York waters for recreational purposes,” said Assemblywoman Galef. “Some boat operators do not understand the possible damage that can result from slight inaccuracies in operation when navigating in highly trafficked or tricky waterways. This ignorance of the rules of operation cannot be tolerated in the face of dangerous and all too often fatal accidents.”
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.
“These proposals are about keeping our waterways safe and making sure that we can do so in an affordable way,” said Senator Carlucci. “When someone wants to shave points off of their automobile insurance premium, they take a defensive driving course. The same concept should apply to boating when we are talking about putting experienced drivers in the water.”
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.
“Driving an automobile doesn’t mean that you can skipper a boat, which requires mastering unique skills and safety techniques,” said Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti who co-sponsors the two bills. “Adults should at least have to meet the same standards that we now require of kids.”
Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said, “As Long Islanders, we all need to be vigilant around the water, whether it is boating or swimming. There are still too many accidents that can be attributed to improper safety practices at sea. Activities around water can be dangerous. Participating in safe boating courses and understanding the proper practices are the best ways to ensure tragedies don’t occur.”
“This is a topic that doesn’t usually garner a great deal of attention unless there is some sort of tragedy. Boating safety, however, needs to be addressed and done so in a manner that will provide protection for everyone that owns a boat or who travels on one. Because we are right on Long Island Sound, this issue is of great importance to so many of our constituents who own and operate boats,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin.
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.
Sheila Lilley, mother of Bryan Johnson, said, “It is appalling to know that New York State has no mandatory safety boating education requirements for operators of a watercraft; especially those which are operated by a motor and most certainly those having 3 or more passengers. To think you do not even need to have a boating license; that’s insane. Operators should have to go through some kind of safety class with some requirements to respond to a life emergency.”
Bryan Johnson’s grandmother, Thomasina Laidley Brown, who was very close with Bryan, said, “I want to thank Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Carlucci for seeing the need to introduce this Boating Safety Legislation, to tighten boating safety. Needless to say, I am angry and appalled at the flaws which currently exist, with regard to the operating of boats on the waters. My grandson will not have died in vain if such changes in boating legislation can be enacted without further delay.”
“As the only transportation in the US that shares trading routes (waterway) with untrained and uncertified individuals, the Commercial marine operators in the Port of New York strongly endorse safe boating legislation. Imagine non-license untrained individual flying above and around airports? Hard to imagine; however non-licensed untrained recreational boater operate in our seaports everyday! THE center of trade, New York Harbor, is the Largest Port on the East Coast of the United States and therefore action must be taken to support this legislation,” said Captain Eric Johannson, Executive Director, Tug and Barge Committee Port of NY/NJ.
Paul Okura, Commander of the Westchester Sail and Power Squadron, a unit of the United States Power Squadrons, said, “If all the boaters take safe boating classes which are offered by the United States Power Squadrons and other organizations who have qualified instructors, we can significantly reduce casualties and deaths on the water. This is the reason why the United States Power Squadrons fully support this legislation. The Safe Boating Class is very comprehensive and it includes general information about boats and personal watercraft, and their maintenance. It also covers how to make boating safer and more comfortable. Other topics include laws and regulations that boaters must follow, GPS waypoint navigation, classical dead reckoning principles, explanation about nautical terms, required safety equipment, fueling, casting off, and underway.”
According to data from the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation from 2010, twenty seven people were killed in boating accidents and a further 128 injured. That was an increase from twenty one people killed and seventy-eight injured in 2009, and the highest number of people killed in boating accidents since 2003, when thirty-four 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 thirteen accidents and three accidents happened in Rockland County, all of them on the Hudson River.
There were over 475,000 recreational vessels registered in New York in 2010, the latest year for which currently published data exists. This makes New York one of the top ten states nationally for the number of recreational vessels registered, according to data from the Coast Guard.
The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the United States Coast Guard as well as the United States Power Squadrons have issued recommendations of their own that all states implement mandatory safety boating education.
The New York State approved boating safety course is currently required for all personal water craft (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. (Until 2009 operators aged 10-13 years old could still operate with restrictions), and if they wish to operate a motorboat (other than a personal watercraft) and are at least 10 years old and less than 18 years old.
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 them.