The death of a Greenwich teenager in a boating accident highlights the need for more stringent boat operator requirements.
The accident occurred Wednesday, when four 16-year-old Greenwich High School students were operating a boat in Long Island Sound. Two were in the boat and two were being towed in a tube behind it.
Tragically, the two girls on the tube came in contact with the boat's propeller; one, Emily Fedorko, was killed, and the other was badly injured.
Should 16-year-olds be operating a power boat on their own?
In Connecticut, anyone as young as 12 may operate a boat with no adult supervision, provided he or she has obtained a safe boating certificate issued by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The courses are given by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadron and others. A typical course takes eight to 10 hours over several days.
After the safe boating certificate is issued, even young teens may operate any size boat. Jet-ski-type watercraft require a separate certificate, and the operator must be at least 16.
Compare those relatively lax regulations with the rules involving teen motor vehicle drivers:
No one under 16 may drive. For the first six months, 16- and 17-year-olds may have as a passenger only parents or a licensed driving instructor. Until the driver is 18, he or she may not drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for very limited instances of work, school, religious activity or medical emergency.
Granted, driving a boat and driving a car are not exactly equivalent. For one thing, waterways are generally less crowded than highways, and in some cases are easier to navigate. But it is time to think about implementing some motor vehicle-type rules for teen operators of watercraft.
In New Jersey, for instance, the minimum age for power boat operation is 13, and until age 16 the maximum horsepower the motor can have is 10.
Boats are fun, but they are not toys. Increasing restrictions on young operators can only save lives.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun