Coast Guard Urged To Adopt Tougher Boating Regulations

AZBW NEWS SERVICE — A U.S. Senator says tougher boating regulations are needed to protect the millions of people who use boats every year in the United States.

During a Nov. 30 news conference, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the Coast Guard — which has jurisdiction over federal waters— to implement new, stringent boating regulations.

Citing Coast Guard reports that approximately 70 percent of all reported fatalities occur on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction, Schumer said that the Coast Guard should expand boating-safety programs and insurance-incentive agreements.

Complicating factors of driving a boat include the lack of proper and adequate safety training, especially for night operation, Schumer said.

Regular boat operators should be encouraged to enroll in boating-safety and training programs certified by the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard should also develop regulations in cooperation with the insurance industry to ensure that boat operators are rewarded accordingly for their safety efforts, he said.

"I believe that such instructional courses should be mandatory if a driver of a boat is involved in a serious marine accident," Schumer said.

And, because alcohol was reported to be involved in approximately one-third of all boating fatalities in 2004, Schumer said that the Coast Guard should adopt new regulations that will make it harder for dangerous boaters to get behind the wheel and crack down on boating while intoxicated.

Detecting drunken boat operators is far more difficult than identifying drunken drivers on the road. Indicators such as crossing a double line are not available on the water, Schumer said.

"I recommend that the Coast Guard work with state and local officials to ensure mandatory Breathalyzer tests for all boat passengers at the time of a crash. Furthermore, stiffer penalties should be enacted for those who are found guilty of boating while intoxicated."

Schumer also wants tougher requirements in order for states to receive federal boat safety grant funding. He cited the Coast Guard’s program that gives funding to states if they have a "boating safety education program."

Unfortunately, Schumer said, due to the ambiguity of the program language, most states get the funds without having adequate training programs. "The Coast Guard should spell out stricter requirements for the states to receive this funding, such as better and more diverse courses and laying out more specific requirements."

Schumer also called on the Coast Guard to standardize nighttime safety lighting on all new boats — adding more lighting to make visibility easier while boating at night.

In a letter to Admiral Thomas H. Collins, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, in which he outlined his recommendations, Schumer wrote, "I hope you will act on these recommendations before the 2006 summer boating season."

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