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Remarks before the the United States Power Squadrons, 2007 Fall Board Meeting, Norfolk, Virginia
Steven R. Chealander
United States Power Squadrons, 2007 Fall Board Meeting, Norfolk, Virginia

Good morning. Thank you, Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn for inviting me to the 2007 United States Power Squadrons (USPS) Fall Board Meeting.  I understand that the USPS whether it meets either as a board meeting or in an annual meeting is the largest gathering of boating educators in the United States. I congratulate you all (over 800 attendees) for being here this morning and I am very honored and privileged to be here.  I might also add this is my first remarks addressing recreational boating safety for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Before starting in earnest on the topic of recreational boating safety, I would like to introduce staff here with me today.  Steve Blackistone, who many of you already know, handles the State and local liaison duties at the Board. Unfortunately, Bill Gossard, our liaison to the Power Squadrons, sends his regards as he had to attend the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators meeting being held in Burlington, Vermont; unfortunately concurrent with this important meeting.

For more than 5 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 Les Johnson and Ted Lewis 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 William Husted which has provided outstanding leadership and personnel representing 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 focus on 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 2007.   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 as 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 Squadron 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 and Minnesota. 

I mention these two states because of our recent contacts in each of these.  Chairman Mark Rosenker met with Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle in June, and the Governor agreed that boating safety education legislation should be introduced in Hawaii’s legislature in 2008.  Likewise, Board Member Kitty Higgins, who addressed the Power Squadron’s annual meeting in January, recently traveled to Minnesota and addressed a similar legislative initiative with a prominent State Senator. As you can see, NTSB is very active on these issues.

In regard to requiring children to 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.  We expect Iowa and Virginia, to act in 2008.  But, the efforts will need your strong support.

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.  You will be critical to the success of these efforts.

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 in support of boating safety initiatives in Virginia for mandatory boating safety education; in Wisconsin and Iowa for mandatory wear of PFDs by children.  You prepared written statements, called and contacted your State legislators, and attended numerous coalition meetings in places such as in California and Maine in 2007.  Your dedicated work has made a difference.

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.

Thank you for your kind invitation, and also let me say that if you or any USPS member is in Washington, DC, my office is always open for your visit.