I have always strongly supported the unrestricted use of our waterways for recreation. However, I now believe we should require that all users of our state and federal waterways be licensed.
I have changed my tune on this after witnessing too many close calls and preventable accidents. It is unthinkable that a person can purchase a boat for $500,000 or more and drive it away from the dock without any education or training. Can you buy a motor home and drive it off the lot without a driver’s license? The answer is no. So should it be OK to allow people to operate recreational vessels on our busy waterways without some sort of training or license?
In Cincinnati Harbor where my company operates, teenagers ride personal watercraft around downtown weaving in and out of barge tows, excursion boats, and whatever else is on the water. They do this without one bit of boating education — no “rules of the road” training, no safety course, and certainly no license. Why are federal and state governments ignoring the safety of their citizens, not to mention professional mariners, by not requiring training or licensing for recreational boaters? Would anyone think that this is a good idea for drivers on U.S. highways?
Enough is enough on our waterways. At a minimum, a driver’s test and license should be required to operate any motorized recreational vessel.