The summer boating season kicked off on July 4th and is expected to be one of the biggest ever. Official predictions estimate that 88 million boaters are hitting the waterways across the country this summer. That staggering figure includes the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, and other popular waterways inside New York City limits. Unfortunately, that congestion means the number of boating accidents is likely to increase as well.
In the New York Metropolitan area, official stats show over 300,000 recreational craft are registered. While many of these boats are used on non-NYC waterways such as the lakes and rivers upstate, a significant portion of them do regularly dip into City waters. However, not all of these watercraft are traditional "boats." Many are Powered Watercraft (PWC) such as jet skis and sea-doos, a fact that Greg Proteus, skipper of Launch 5 (a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel stationed in the Hudson River) knows all too well.
"I had 3 near fatal rescues from PWC incidents," said Porteus. "If it were not for Launch 5 crew members Jim Picciano, Wayne Pickhardt, Cliff Forrest and Bill Smith all three incidents would have been fatal, including three kids under 7 years old." Porteus says that mandatory licensing and education have gone a long way toward making city waterways safer but still expects the number of New York City boating accidents to rise.
Driver inexperience is one of the leading cause of these deadly boating accidents, however, legislation passed this year in the state government will hopefully change all that. Bill A.3471-A/S.1639-A requires every operator of a mechanically propelled vessel to earn boating safety certification through completion of an 8-hour safe boating course. The new law is due to rollout next year.
In addition, the Recreation Boating Industry recommends that all boaters:
• Keep a watchful eye on the weather
• Designate an assistant skipper
• Develop a "float plan" (similar to a flight plan so someone onshore knows where you're planning to go)
• Avoid using alcohol while operating your watercraft
• Ensure there are life jackets enough for everyone on the boat and that they're used properly when necessary.
• Take a boating safety or operation course if you are the least bit uncomfortable with operating your watercraft.
Lastly, use common sense. A operating a watercraft is every bit as dangerous as driving a car and requires a similar amount of preparedness and responsibility from all parties involved.