By Cathy Sie

In most places, boating and driving rules differ slightly, although there are some similarities in the approach.

Antonio Garcia, a boater from Tamaulipas, Mexico, said “Boating and driving are pretty much the same thing. The hardest part is taking the boat in and out.” He said the rest is easy.

However, this is not all what it seems to be.

When Ron Walsh was observing the national boating statistics of the United States, the number of accidents in the past year was staggering.

Walsh, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, said,  “Last year there were approximately 626 fatalities as result of boating accidents.”

According to William Gossard, a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, there were four main issue areas that led to accidents. Lack of proper education, lack of worn life jackets, alcohol, and the violation of isolate reporting.

Gossard said, “We’ve done several studies: one on alcohol and boating, one on watercraft safety and another one on just a whole area on recreational boating safety.”

He said people refrain from wearing life jackets because they are too “hot and cumbersome.” He believes that regulations regarding life jackets should be more enforced.

Walsh said, “Over 85 percent  of people that drowned of boating accidents weren’t wearing life jackets.”

They don’t have to be worn by anyone over age 12, but they have to be inside the vessel.

Seat belts in autos, on the other hand, are required by law.

Gossard also states, “Also we found in a study that in 1990…80-to-85 percent of the boat operators…had no basic boating education.”

Licenses and driver’s education classes are required to drive a car, but boating licenses and boating safety classes are not required in every state to operate a boat.

Captain E. David Cox, a boating captain, said that “71 percent of deaths where operator had no boating safety instructions.”

Chris Scott, a well experienced boater from Martha’s Vineyard, feels strongly about safety. He said, “I think boating licenses should be required if it leads to boating education.”

Alcohol is also one of the leading factors of boating accidents.

Cox said, “The first thing people do is putting a packet of beer on the boat.”

According to Gossard, 40-50 percent of boating accidents are because of alcohol.

Driving a car while under the influence of alcohol is illegal, whereas it is accepted while operating a boat.

Scott said, “You can operate a boat while driving.”

It is believed that the amount of accidents would decrease if boating laws were stricter, but it is slowly getting better.

Gossard said, “Now we’re down to 600 fatalities per year, on the average, nationally.”

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