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EDITORIAL: Another senseless tragedy, another needed safety law

EDITORIAL: Another senseless tragedy, another needed safety law

Boaters need basic instruction to help prevent crashes that kill
EDITORIAL: Another senseless tragedy, another needed safety law
Brianna Lieneck was killed in a boating crash in 2005 as a result of a reckless driver.

How many times are we going to have to name a law after a dead child in order to get people to act responsibly?

Jacobe’s law: Named after a 13-year-old Moreau boy who committed suicide after being bullied.

Leandra’s Law: Named after an 11-year-old New York City girl killed when her mother crashed while driving drunk.

Nicholas’s Law: Named after a 12-year-old Wilton boy shot to death by his friend while playing with an unsecured handgun in the home.

Johnathan’s Law: Named after a 13-year-old autistic boy who suffered abuse before he died in a motor-vehicle incident while supervised by unqualified employees of a group home in Niskayuna.

Now the state Legislature is considering Brianna’s Law, which would require all motor boat operators, regardless of age, to take a boating safety course and obtain a certificate.

The law is named after Brianna Lieneck of Long Island, an 11-year-old girl who was killed when a boat crashed into her family’s boat in 2005 off Long Island.

The crash, in which one boat being driven recklessly crashed into and over another boat, was similar to the crash that killed 8-year-old Charlotte McCue on Lake George in 2016. In that case, the driver of that boat was found to have been operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In the Lieneck crash, the driver was suspected of being drunk, but was not charged.

So we have another dead child. 

And another law that family members and other supporters hope will spare the next child a similar fate and spare the next family the same trauma they suffered.

This bill (A4853/S5685) specifically requires that all operators of mechanically propelled vessels complete a boating safety course and obtain a boating safety certificate.

Eligible courses are available from a number of institutions, and include approved internet-based courses that can ensure attendance. 

Boaters can go online to find approved courses that are offered for free or for a nominal cost.

Right now, the law requiring a boating course before operating a powerboat only applies to operators born after May 1, 1996, which means it only applies to those 23 years old or younger.

But the majority of boat operators in the state are middle-aged adults, who are not required to take boating safety classes and may have never done so voluntarily.

Given that there are about 450,000 registered power boats in New York state, this could potentially affect a lot of boaters and potentially prevent a lot of accidents.

The courses would instruct boaters on basic navigational operation and laws, as well as make them aware of the requirements for wearing life vests and the importance of not operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Will mandatory instruction prevent all boating accidents? No. But it might make more operators more aware and more cautious when operating powerful motor boats, especially in the vicinity of other boats.

Many of our safety laws, particularly those named after children, wouldn’t be needed if people would simply be more responsible for their actions and cognizant of the safety of others.

Unfortunately, we need laws like this as a roadblock to the next potential tragedy.

Lawmakers should add Brianna’s Law to the list.

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