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Remarks before the Personal Flotation Devices in Recreational Boating Forum, Ashburn, VA
Mark V. Rosenker
Personal Flotation Devices in Recreational Boating Forum, Ashburn, VA

Good morning. I wish to echo the welcome of the Chairman and thank you for joining us at this important event.

When I became Vice Chairman of the NTSB, one of the first accidents I traveled to was the loss of a commercial charter fishing vessel in Tillamook, Oregon. Eleven people perished in this terrible accident. However, most of those on board who had PFDs survived, but those that did not lost their lives. This made a lasting impression on me because the vessel was no larger than my former sailboat or any other recreational vessel. While that accident was not a recreational vessel, it is still a powerful testament to the value of having PFDs on board and the potential for saving lives.

What I foresee this forum examining is the lowest common denominator or level where the simple donning of a PFD will save lives, reduce taxpayer search and rescue budgets, and provide law enforcement a better opportunity to educate and contact our boaters - alive rather than dead. I hope that, through this proceeding, we are able to truly debate the issue of mandatory wear of PFDs and set the stage for actions to be taken, actions that can make a difference and reduce the tragic death toll.

During this past year, I have attended a number of conferences, regional boating law administrator meetings and international meetings, and the one thing I have found is that there does not seem to be any dispute on the value of wearing lifejackets. In addition, members of the Board as well as staff, have testified on a number of issues where we have made cogent recommendations, such as children wearing PFDs and mandatory boater education. What is of interest to me is for the organizations represented here to be at those hearings in support of these initiatives.

Today, we will hear from the safety experts in Canada represented by the Canadian Boating Safety Council, we have also received Ireland's new statutory requirement for vessels under 7 meters (about 23 feet), and information from Victoria and Tasmania, Australia. The information provided reflects a vital concern about the safety of their citizens.

I look forward to the presentations and the questions and answers that follow as we seek to provide a strong and meaningful approach to increasing PFD wear to reduce fatalities.