Good morning. Thank you, Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn and the National Bridge for inviting me to the 2008 United States Power Squadrons (USPS) Annual Conference and to Rear Commander Bill Husted for the very kind introduction. Also a good morning Squadron members and invited guests. It’s great to be in Dallas and it’s great to be among one of the most influential and leading boating safety organizations in the world.
Before starting in earnest on the topic of recreational boating safety, I would like to introduce the staff here with me today. Bill Gossard, our liaison to the Power Squadrons, is here with me this morning and addressed the National Government and Partner Relations Committee yesterday.
For more than 6 years, the National Transportation Safety Board has been pleased to work very closely with the Power Squadrons. It has been the leadership of the Squadrons and the dedication of its members, embodied in Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn and Past Chief Commanders that have kept the boating safety community focused and supportive on a number of safety initiatives. Particularly, let me commend the Power Squadron’s Government and Partner Relations Committee chaired by Rear Commander Bill Husted which has provided outstanding leadership and the personnel to represent the Power Squadrons in many legislative hearings and States’ coalition meetings, on issues important in improving recreational boating safety.
This morning I would like to again focus my remarks on the 3 critical issue areas where the Safety Board and the Power Squadrons are partnering together to make the Nation’s waterways safer: first, mandatory recreational boating safety education; second, requiring children to wear personal flotation devices; and third, safety instruction training for operators of rented personal watercraft.
All 3 of these issue areas are on the Board’s Most Wanted Safety Improvements list for 2008. This is a list that each year the full Board reviews and approves as major emphasis areas for Board action.
Today, 36 States, DC, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands have enacted legislation or taken action consistent with the Safety Board’s recommendation addressing the need for mandatory recreational boating safety education. The Board’s intent is that all recreational boat operators will complete a minimum education program approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the State.
In 2007, we were successful in accomplishing action on boating safety education in Virginia. The Power Squadrons played a pivotal role in building support for the bill. Thank you. Although we were pleased with this initiative we only made limited headway in a number of other States during 2007 including California, Maine, Florida and Montana. But not to worry, the Safety Board, the Power Squadrons and our other partners, State Boating Law Administrators, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary plan to be back in 2008 in those 4 states, as well as some new states including Hawaii, Georgia, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Additionally, New York State and Florida are working on amending their current boating safety education law.
In regard to our recommendation that children wear lifejackets; 47 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands have completed a State requirement. Only 3 States (Iowa, Wisconsin, and Virginia) have not acted. A legislative initiative remains underway this year in Wisconsin. Wyoming’s Fish and Game Commission met in July 2007, and implemented regulations administratively.
Two States (Nevada and New Hampshire) amended their state laws this year, to increase the number of children covered by PFD wear by increasing their mandatory age requirement to under age 13. This age is recommended by the Safety Board, the Coast Guard, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the United States Power Squadrons. New Hampshire increased the age from 5 and under to 12 and under. In Nevada, the age was increased from under age 12 to under age 13. The Power Squadron is active in all of the States without mandatory PFD wear requirements (Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia). The Safety Board looks to Power Squadrons continued support in 2008 and 2009. In Wisconsin, the USPS testified in support of 2 bills (Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 45). In Iowa, the USPS supports Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to advance a bill addressing PFD wear by children.
Most current was the strong effort in Virginia to enact a law addressing children and PFDs and we made some strong inroads in the legislative process, The bill, HB 1250, was reported out of the Chesapeake Subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates Standing Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources by a very close vote (5-3) and received a fair hearing before the full Committee on February 6, 2008. The USPS played a prominent role in support and provided written support in favor of the legislation. The full committee reported the bill out of Committee on a favorable vote. However, in the end, the bill was voted by the House of Delegates to the Appropriations Committee on a procedural 52-47 vote. Thus, the bill was effectively tabled for this year. However, there is always next year and we will be at it again.
Finally, Safety Recommendation M-98-101 addresses the need for persons renting personal watercraft (PWCs) to be provided some safety instruction training prior to operating such vessels. Presently, 35 States, the District of Columbia, and 4 territories have enacted legislation or taken action consistent with the Board’s recommendation. Many States have included safety instruction for rental operators in their boating education bills so we expect more States to complete action on this recommendation as bills addressing boating safety education are enacted into law.
I would like to thank all members of the United States Power Squadrons that have assisted us in the various States. You have testified or provided written and verbal support for boating safety initiatives in the following States in 2007 and 2008:
- Virginia for mandatory boating safety education and mandatory wear of PFDs by children.
- Wisconsin and Iowa for mandatory wear of PFDs by children.
- California, Maine, Georgia, Florida, and Massachusetts for mandatory boating safety education.
The Safety Board and the Power Squadrons can look forward to a very active legislative agenda in 2008 with a number of pivotal States acting on boating safety initiatives. I personally look forward to working with the new Chief Commander and I know that we will always have the support and guidance of past Chief Commanders of the United States Power Squadrons. And although Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn will move to past C/C, I know he will continue to assist us in charting the course for future boating safety successes at the State level.
Ernie, the National Bridge, and Power Squadrons’ members thanks again for your kind invitation, and also let me say that if you or any Power Squadrons’ member is in Washington, DC, my office is always open for your visit.
Speeches & Testimony