Local Officials Call for Changes to Boating Safety Laws

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State Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester), Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Westchester/Putnam), and other state and local officials last week urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that will fundamentally change the way boating safety is implemented in New York State.

The effort is designed to educate individuals who currently do not possess boating knowledge to help prevent tragedies from unfolding, as was the case last summer in Long Island and along the Hudson River. The bill would require 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.

The legislation would also 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.

“This legislation will ultimately save lives and protect our waterways by bringing New York’s boating laws into the 21st century,” Carlucci said on the banks of the Hudson River in Ossining. This has been a long and emotional journey for the family of Bryan Johnson and the countless advocates who believe more must be done to prevent future tragedies from occurring in the first place.  New York will now be among the leaders across the nation who understand the dangers of operating a vessel without proper training.”

“Safe boating requires skill that must be learned and practiced.  Boating without the proper instruction is dangerous to the boater and everyone else on the water,” said State Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D/Tarrytown).

Family members of Bryan Johnson, the young victim who tragically lost his life in a boating prank off of CityIsland last year, also joined in a somber ceremony to mark the one year anniversary of his passing.  The Town of Ossining recently passed a Town Board resolution renaming the Ossining Boat Ramp the Bryan J. Johnson Memorial Boat Ramp.  A colorful banner will be hung throughout the summer that pays tribute to the memory of Johnson.

“Responsible adults, especially parents, should always make sure that they and the young people they are responsible for get proper training and understand boating safety.  This law makes it official,” said Ossining Town Supervisor Suzanne Donnelly. “But outside of legislation, common sense tells us that we need to educate all of our loved ones on the importance of responsibility for their own well-being, and the safety of others on the water, no matter what kind of vessel they are using.”

New York also lags regionally in comparison to neighboring states when it comes to the level of boating safety requirements that exist.  Many tougher provisions already exist for Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont as well as Canada.  The problem exists naturally when many New Yorkers utilize the same waters as other state residents who have much more experience with operating a boat than they do themselves.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, last year in New York there were 27 people killed and 127 injured in boating accidents. While New York is seventh in the nation in boat registrations, it ranks fifth for deaths from boating accidents. Over the last five years, there were 890 total boating accidents in the state and 129 fatalities. New York also ranks considerably higher in the amount of damages ($4.7M) resulting from boating accidents compared to its neighboring states.


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