Last month, a tragic recreational boat accident occurred in Cincinnati. This one was particularly upsetting to me because with proper training and education, it likely could have been avoided.
The boating accident occurred on the Ohio River shortly before 1 a.m. when a 38-foot recreational boat ran into an 18-foot runabout with five people on board. All five went into the water. One, a 17-year-old high school student, died, and the other four were rescued. The survivors had serious injuries.
Several years ago there was another fatality on the Ohio when a recreational boat travelling at a high rate of speed struck a docked houseboat killing one occupant and sending another to the hospital with serious injuries.
In 2010, the Coast Guard estimated there were 4,604 accidents involving recreational boats that resulted in 672 deaths and 3,153 injuries and an estimated $35.5 million in property damages. According to the Coast Guard, “Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.”
The senseless nature of these accidents is appalling. As responsible citizens and professional mariners, we don’t have to sit by idly and wait for the next tragic accident or fatality. We should work with the Coast Guard and state and local agencies to properly train and certify all recreational boaters.
In the past, I have been a vocal proponent of licensing boat operators. This accident raises the call to do just that. I believe that it is time for states to launch recreational boating licensing programs to educate boaters with the goal of improving boating safety.
I commend the few states that have passed recreational boating license requirements. However, there really isn’t any oversight of small pleasure craft operators in and around our busiest ports. This is similar to allowing an unlicensed individual to operate a car on busy streets and highways.
The answer is quite simple. In order to operate a vessel on a navigable or non-navigable waterway, a person must complete an approved boating safety course and pass a test that certifies a basic knowledge about how to safely operate a recreational boat.