Let's ensure a safe boating season
Published 1:02 am, Thursday, June 24, 2010
At the end of May, Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill into law eliminating time restrictions on when blood alcohol tests may be taken in drunken boating cases if expert testimony establishes the reliability of the test.
We support any legislation that makes our waterways safer this season.
Prompted by the 2007 death of Susan Brandes, a South Windsor woman who was killed instantly by an out-of-control speedboat in the Connecticut River, the law specifically allows tests for blood alcohol (BAC) to be administered beyond the current two-hour limit.
Authorities say an intoxicated boater fell out of his speedboat moments before it sliced into a sailboat carrying Brandes, her husband and another couple on the Connecticut River in Old Saybrook. As the emergency unfolded, paramedics attended to the casualties on the water first and police and others worked to stop the runaway boat, so a BAC was not taken from the suspect until two hours and 10 minutes after the crash. The blood alcohol test was ruled inadmissible in court.
"The deadly mix of alcohol and driving or boating changes lives forever. As we head into the summer and the height of the boating season, the memory of that tragic accident is a grim reminder of the consequences," Rell said in a statement. "Those who disregard the law and the safety will be dealt with severely. This law gives police and prosecutors another effective tool in bringing those responsible to justice."
The governor said the legislation builds on a 2009 drunken boating bill she proposed and signed into law that imposes harsher penalties -- including longer prison sentences -- for boaters convicted of killing someone while operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That law also arose out of the 2007 fatality.
"The horrors of that tragedy three years ago on the Connecticut River will resonate with everyone affected -- family, friends and the first responders whose priority was to save lives that day," Rell said. "Drinking and boating cannot and will not be tolerated in Connecticut. There is far too much at stake."
But drinking while boating is not the only activity that can endanger boaters this season. Boating without a life jacket is also risky behavior that should be avoided.
Rande J. Wilson, a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Norwalk, is once again reminding boaters that life jackets save lives.
According to Wilson, in more than 90 percent of boating related drownings, the victims were not wearing life jackets.
So boaters, please make sure there is a wearable life jacket on board for each person on every vessel.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
"¢ Each life jacket must be "readily accessible." An inflatable life jacket must be worn to be considered "readily accessible."
"¢ If the vessel is more than 16 feet in length (except a kayak or canoe) it must have a Type IV "throwable" device, it must be "immediately available".
In Connecticut life jackets must:
"¢ be U.S. Coast Guard approved
"¢ have a legible label
"¢ be of the correct size and fit for the wearer. A life jacket should fit comfortably snug and never cover your face or ride up past your ears.
"¢ be in serviceable condition (all straps and buckles must be in good condition and able to perform their jobs; all seams and material must be intact).
"¢ be worn by children under 13 years old on any vessel that is underway unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
"¢ be worn by anyone operating or riding on a personal water craft (PWC).
"¢ be worn by anyone being pulled behind a boat (such as tubing or skiing).
"¢ be worn by anyone in a manually propelled vessel from Oct. 1 through May 31 (must be Type I, II, III, V or V-hybrid).
"¢ ski belts are not legal life jackets.
"¢ inflatable lifejackets may not be used by persons engaged in high speed water sports (such as riding PWCs or waterskiing) and may not be used by persons weighing under 90 pounds or under 16 years of age.
"¢ all vessels 16 feet and longer, except kayaks and canoes, must also carry a Type IV throwable device in addition to the required number of wearable life jackets.
Please follow these guidelines to ensure a safe boating season this year. When it's nice out and you're enjoying the water, it may be tempting to go boating without wearing a life jacket. But these days life jackets are available in so many shapes, colors and sizes that it won't impede your enjoyment of being on the water. It's called a life jacket for a reason. Don't risk yours by not wearing one.