State Environmental Officials Urge Residents to Follow Safe Boating Practices
National Safe Boating Week Takes Place May 18-24
BOSTON – Friday, May 17, 2013 – With Memorial Day approaching, the Patrick-Murray Administration has proclaimed May 18-24 Safe Boating Week in Massachusetts as part of a national campaign to encourage safe boating practices.
In addition to wearing lifejackets, officials from the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) , the primary agency charged with enforcing boating laws in Commonwealth waters, are urging that boaters take a boating safety course, operate boats only while sober and make sure their boats have the required safety equipment onboard.
“When you’re out on the Massachusetts waterways, remember – safety first,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, whose office oversees MEP. "Wear a lifejacket and make sure friends and family do the same so that everyone has a safe and enjoyable boating season."
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 651 boating fatalities nationwide last year – down from 758 in 2011. Of those fatalities, the number one cause was drowning. Of those who drowned, 83 percent were not wearing a lifejacket.
“In addition to wearing a lifejacket, we ask everyone to always travel at reasonable speeds and to avoid operating boats under the influence of drugs or alcohol," said MEP Director Colonel Aaron Gross. "Massachusetts Environmental Police officers will be patrolling rivers, lakes and coastal waters across the Commonwealth throughout the season to enforce state and federal recreational boating laws."
In Massachusetts, most boating fatalities occur as the result of boaters failing to wear a lifejacket or not having the appropriate lifejackets onboard. Last year, there were 68 reported boating accidents in the state, resulting in 17 fatalities. That number is up from 46 reported boating accidents that resulted in nine fatalities in 2011.
"Safe Boating Week is the ideal time to ensure your boat and safety equipment is ready for the boating season,” said U.S Coast Guard Recreational Boating Safety Specialist Walt Taylor. “The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons have certified vessel examiners who can perform a free Vessel Safety Check at your boat. There is no charge and no consequences if you don't pass. Their goal is simply to help make your boating experience as safe as possible.”
Operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited. Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of a public or private swimming area. All boaters are reminded to operate their vessels at reasonable speeds based on the existing conditions, including traffic density, weather and visibility.
Under Massachusetts law, boaters under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat unless accompanied and supervised by an adult. Children between the ages of 12 and 15 must complete an approved boating course. Children under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft. Personal watercraft operators ages 16 and 17 must pass an approved boating safety course prior to operation. All boats are required to carry life preservers, fire extinguishers and navigation lights. A paddle or an oar is required on boats less than 16 feet long.
The MEP also caution inland boaters about swift moving rivers, which can lead to unpredictable water hazards, including floating debris. In addition, water temperatures in coastal waters and rivers and lakes at this time of year can be as cool as 40 degrees – a temperature that can cause hypothermia and offset even a strong swimmer's ability to swim safely to shore.
All boating accidents must be reported to the MEP at (800) 632-8075. MEP officials encourage boaters of all ages and experience to take a safe boating course.
For more information on safe boating courses, contact the Environmental Police Boat and Recreational Vehicle Safety Bureau at (508) 564-4961.
The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Office of Law Enforcement – known also as the Massachusetts Environmental Police – is the primary agency responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth’s fish and game and boating and recreational vehicle laws. MEP officers, while authorized to enforce all general laws, focus on laws and regulations related to the protection of natural resources and public parks and land; boat and recreational vehicle use; and hazardous waste disposal. MEP officers serve as stewards of the state’s natural resources, patrolling forests, parks, inland waterways and coastal waters throughout the Commonwealth.