- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
- Department of Conservation & Recreation
- Massachusetts Environmental Police
- Department of Fish and Game
Media Contact for State Officials Remind Public to Prioritize Safety While Boating
Craig Gilvarg, Press Secretary
Boston — BOSTON – With summer approaching, state environmental and public safety officials are urging boaters to take important steps to safely and responsibly ride and operate boats this season, including wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD), commonly known as a lifejacket, at all times when on a boat.
“As summer approaches and more residents take advantage of opportunities for outdoor recreation, it is critically important that boaters are mindful to practice safety first and always wear a life jacket to prevent tragic accidents,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We urge the public to keep yourselves and your families safe by wearing a PFD and always operating boats at a safe speed.”
According to the United States Coast Guard, there were 4,168 recreational boating accidents nationally in 2019 leading to 613 deaths, 2,559 injuries and approximately $55 million dollars of damage to property. Of the fatalities, 77% were due to drowning. Of those who drowned, 84% of the victims were not wearing a lifejacket.
“A personal floatation device, commonly known as a lifejacket, is the most important piece of safety equipment for any person that operates or rides on a boat,” said Massachusetts Environmental Police Colonel Shaun Santos. “It is important that boaters take extra care to prioritize safety, always travel at reasonable speeds and never operate boats under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
In Massachusetts, most boating fatalities occur as the result of boaters failing to wear a lifejacket or not having the appropriate lifejackets onboard. In the last two weeks, there have been two fatalities and one person missing as a result of boating accidents in the Commonwealth.
“Everyone who uses motorboats, canoes and kayaks while fishing, hunting, or recreational boating must remember safety first on the water,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “Wearing PFDs and learning and practicing all safe boating habits is critical to the enjoyment of boating in Massachusetts.”
“Contained within state parks and throughout the Commonwealth are pristine waterbodies that the public has great access to; however, it is vital that we all take proper precautions to ensure a safe, fun experience,” said Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “Please remember to always wear a lifejacket, operate boats responsibly, and ensure water conditions are safe prior to launching.”
Boaters are reminded that operating any vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited. Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of public or private swimming areas. All boaters are urged to operate their vessels at reasonable speeds based upon existing conditions, including traffic density, weather, and visibility. For inland waters, operating at a speed greater than 45 mph is considered excessive.
“Boaters and paddlers in the Northeast have an incredible network of inland and coastal waters available for their use, but things can and do go wrong in a heartbeat," said Walt Taylor, Recreational Boating Specialist for the First Coast Guard District. "In the Northeast, over 73% of our recreational boating and paddling fatalities are the direct result of capsizing or falling overboard and, of these fatalities, about 77% were not wearing a life jacket. Bottom line, bring and wear your life jacket - life jackets save lives - when you need your life jacket, you need it on."
Under Massachusetts law, boaters under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat unless accompanied and supervised by an adult. Children under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft. Children ages 12-15 must complete an approved boating safety course to operate a motorboat, children ages 16 and 17 must do so to operate a personal watercraft.
Boating safety ultimately starts onshore. Boaters should file a float plan with a friend or family prior to getting underway. Boaters are reminded that all boats are required to carry personal floatation devices and all passengers less than 12 years of age must be in a lifejacket whenever above decks while underway.
All boating accidents must be reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police at (800) 632-8075.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police is the primary agency responsible for enforcing the Commonwealth’s fish and game, boating, and off-highway 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 off-highway 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.