by Hannah Gottman
Statistics show that 80 to 85 percent of boaters in accidents have had no boating education, according to Bill Gossard, a long-time boating accident inspector for the National Transportation Safety Board.
He said that there are four main issues with boating safety: lack of mandatory education, failure to report accidents, lack of life jacket use and alcohol.
Mandatory boating education could save lives, according to Gossard.
In 2015 Massachusetts had 89 accidents, 37 injuries and 5 deaths, according to the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Resource Center. Massachusetts doesn’t require one to obtain a boater’s license if they’re 16 and older, but anyone who’s between the ages of 12 and 15 and wishes to operate a motorboat without adult supervision must take a boaters’ safety course.
“Based on the research of states that do have mandatory licenses for both kids and adults there would most likely be a substantial decrease in accidents and ultimately fatalities,” with mandatory licensing and education, said Ron Walsh, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary who also teaches boating education. Walsh thinks that operator inexperience is one of the main contributing factors to the fatality rate.
Walsh said younger boaters have fewer accidents than people between the ages of 36 to 55, but it’s unclear whether this is the result of their boating education.
Massachusetts does have a boating education requirement, but it’s very weak compared to the states surrounding it and others, according to Gossard. However, certain clubs like the Boston Sailing Center require boaters to take boating safety classes, instructor Mathew Renik said. Renik has been sailing for eight years and thinks that everyone should have to take a boating class.
Bob Garber, operations manager at Boston Sailing Center has been boating for about 50 years. Garber has taken many classes himself and is also on the Marine Safety Committee. Garber said that the lack of education is a big part of fatalities. “No matter the age, before boating you should take a boating safety class,” said Garber. To Garber, boating is not like a car, and you need to be aware. Garber said that Massachusetts should require boating safety classes in order to boat.