Connecticut lawmaker urges change in boat-operator age

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Children as young as 12 can operate boats legally in Connecticut unsupervised as long as they complete an 8-hour boating safety course and pass a multiple choice test — something one state lawmaker wants to re-examine in the wake of a boating accident that left one teenager dead and another injured.

State Rep. Stephen Dargan, a Democrat from West Haven and co-chairman of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, told The Hartford Courant he was troubled to learn that minors as young as 12 can operate a boat under state law without adult supervision.

“It certainly got my attention,” he told the Courant. “That is somewhat of a young age for somebody using a lot of horsepower.”

Dargan, who was elected in 1990, said he remembers that the legislature toughened Connecticut’s teen driving laws several years ago because of the number of accidents that involved teenagers. He said he wouldn’t be opposed to re-examining the legal boating age.

“I remember voting on those [driving laws] because of some of the horrific tragedies,” Dargan said. “We might have to look at the further correction of what we do with boating licenses in the state.”

Many expressed surprise or concern last week after an accident that involved four teenage girls who were boating and tubing. According to police, four Greenwich teenage girls, all 15 or 16 years of age, were operating a 21-foot powerboat with a 200-hp engine on Long Island Sound unsupervised by adults.

Two of the girls were in the boat towing the other two on an inflatable tube. The two girls in the tube fell out, police say, and after the girl operating the boat turned around to pick them up, the boat’s propeller hit the girls in the water.

Emily Fedorko, 16, died at the scene from her injuries, and an unidentified 15-year old girl was taken to Stamford Hospital for a leg injury that “required extensive stitching.”

Republican state Sen. Len Fasano, who represents North Haven, East Haven and Wallingford, said his children got their safe boating certificates around the age of 12 or 13 and said he doesn’t think there’s anything the state can do legislatively to prevent accidents such as the one that occurred in Greenwich.

“What happened in Greenwich is a horrible, horrible accident,” he said. “But it’s just that, an accident. I don’t think what happened is a result of someone not knowing how to run a boat.”


5 comments on “Connecticut lawmaker urges change in boat-operator age

  1. electronicsrus

    As tragic as this accident was, there are irresponsible people of all ages. Many boaters got into boating because of the opportunity get into it at an early age. Education, and common sense parenting is the key. NOT Legislation.

  2. Mark Passeri

    What a bunch of crap! This is so typical. So if the operator had been 40 years old it couldn’t still happen? It does, unfortunately. There are so many factors here, and age is probably not one of them. When we were kids, (I’m 57 now) we were allowed to operate boats alone under 10 HP at a very young age, I think it was about 12 years old. I lot of my summer time friends had 12 foot aluminum boats with a 4 -9.9 HP outboards on them, and we ran all over the place with them. As I recall at 12, we took our “Young Skippers Course”, and got a certificate that allowed us to run basically any pleasure boat our family might own. We were taught responsible boating practices, that I observe every day being broken, mostly by older operators in there 30- 50′s!!! Most young boaters I see, (and I’m a boat dealer, so I see a lot of them), come from families where safe, responsible boating is taught at a very young age. Boater education is key, yes, but age has little to do with it in my opinion. My kids have been operating boats since they were 5 years old, with supervision of course. By the time my son was 14, he was the best driver I had for pulling me water skiing, (including barefoot skiing at speeds of 40 MPH), including ALL of my adult friends. I still to this day prefer he drive for me over anybody else. My daughter is also a pretty darn good boat driver, as is my daughter in law, who has been taught by us since she was about 14 years old.

    Another example of shoddy reporting’ “There is no speed limit on Long Island Sound, although police said it was too early to determine whether speed was a factor in the accident.” Yeah, so let’s put a speed limit on the Sound, even though we don’t know if speed was a factor, is the implication here. So typical Soundings.

    Anybody who has pulled a skier or tube knows that speed wouldn’t likely be a factor, and that a speed limit would have no effect on this particular accident. It is fairly clear that when the girls fell off the tube, the pilot of this craft went back to get them, and somehow didn’t know where they were, and ran them over. How could a speed limit have helped here, other than a speed limit to get back to your skiers being set at a low number, which could also be a bad regulation if your fallen skier was injured our worse had another boat bearing down on them. I have had that very thing happen, and had to use my boat to protect my fallen skier by intercepting the other drivers path with my boat. Once they realize what I did, they are always grateful that I called their attention to my fallen skier.
    In general, the laws in place already work. Do people who drive boats, especially newcomers of ALL ages need better boater education? YES most definitely do ! That should be the focus, not age. As in any activity, there are risks, and they call them accidents for a reason. Government cannot protect us from everything, as much as some would like to make you think it can. An educated population is the best answer to all of America’s wows, not the dumbing down of America, and the elimination of freedom.

  3. Mark Passeri

    Surprise surprise, the republican has common sense, and the democrat thinks he can legislate people from making mistakes. Gee thanks Dargan, but I already have a Mom and a Dad, I don’t want or need your nanny state. And the democrats wonder why people (who earn money) are leaving this state!

  4. nyccaptain

    Accidents happen but further education like hands on classes and Renewal of the certificate might help.
    you have to take a practical exam to drive a motorcycle, car or a plane, why not a boat

  5. Ed Chapdelaine

    Typical legislator with nothing useful to contribute to society trying to justify his unnecessary and taxpayer funded position.

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