Recreational Boating Safety Record Never Been Better

Published online: Jul 18, 2007 News
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According to the latest available statistics for 2004, more people died in bathtubs and swimming pools (847) than in recreational boats (676). Operating a boat is far safer than riding a bicycle, motorcycle or off-road vehicle. In fact, you have a much greater chance of perishing from a fall involving a bed, chair or furniture (838) or falling from a stairs or steps (1,588) than you do in falling from a boat.

"Recent calls by Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard officials that recreational boating would be safer if boaters were "certified" and required to show proof of identification is just not backed up by the facts," said BoatU.S. President Nancy Michelman.

"The rate of recreational boating fatalities per 100,000 boats has been cut by 75 percent and the number of boating fatalities has been reduced by 58 percent since the implementation of the landmark Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971," Michelman noted.

Currently, Congress is considering Administration-backed legislation that could result in licensing boaters in the name of national security because the Coast Guard does not believe it has the authority to require a boat operator to produce identification without probable cause.

"Requiring millions of recreational boat owners to be licensed and tasking the already overburdened Coast Guard with implementing a duplicative system solely to identify those operating a boat will be costly to develop, take years to implement and will not result in a demonstrable improvement in national security," said BoatU.S. at a recent summit meeting held under Homeland Security Department auspices.

Instead, BoatU.S. believes a comprehensive waterway security program needs to be established. It would be far simpler and much less costly for the Coast Guard to ask Congress for the authority to require boat operators to produce the same identification now required to board a commercial airline flight. In addition, the Coast Guard should substantially expand its Waterway Watch program to enable thousands of recreational boaters to be the Coast Guard's eyes and ears on the waterways and, it should clearly mark security zones-both public and private-to ensure that boaters know where they can and can not go.

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