Florida has the highest rate of boating deaths and injuries in the nation. Safety advocates and law enforcement authorities have tried for years to toughen boating laws - requiring licenses, for example. We asked members of the Times-Union/Jacksonville.com Email Interactive Group if they think boating laws should be strengthened and by doing what. Here is a representative sampling of their responses:
Well duh! One would expect the most accidents where there is the most traffic and usage. I expect there are more wrecks on I-10 in Jacksonville than there are on I-10 in Live Oak. More laws are NOT going to change the root cause. Licensing is just another government moneymaking scheme.
S.S. McDonald, McAlpin
I have been a boater all of my life and have "seen it all" out on the water. Fellow boaters will probably get mad at me for saying this, but I would be in favor of some sort of boating driver's license. At the very least, operators should have to go to a boater's safety course before licensing their boats. If you want to see how incompetent a lot of boat operators are, go to any dock and watch them try to get the boats on and off the trailer. Some are ridiculous!!
Several years ago a friend of mine bought a rather large boat from a dealer near the beach on the Intracoastal. I think they generally showed him how to run it, but he wanted to bring it through town to a marina in Ortega. He asked me to go with him because he didn't feel competent to run it. He ran it into the dock at the dealer before I could stop him. I had to get it out of the dealer's marina for him.
John Wells, Jacksonville
As a commercial and pleasure boat owner, I've seen way too many accidents and accidents waiting to happen. We lost a number of profitable fishing trips because we forbid alcohol, including beer, on our boat. Back at the dock, fine, but not on the boat. Drinking has been the cause of too many accidents. The law for boaters should be the same as for drivers of cars when it comes to booze. Maybe even stricter.
A driver's license? Yep. You buy a boat, you study the book and take a test. Renew your license every 1 to 3 years? Yep. If you sell your boat and buy a bigger boat or a sailboat, you must take another test before your license is sent to you. Airplane pilots have to do it. Speeding? Give 'em a ticket. Three offenses and you get slapped with a big fine plus a mandatory boating safety class, just like a car driver must take.
If I sound too harsh, try to imagine listening to pleas for help from a family whose boat is breaking up in a "tropical depression" and your own boat isabarely making headwayaand you'reatoo far away to help, anyway. They lost a child to sharks. We need stricter boating laws and heavier fines if that's what it takes to get the boating population's attention.
Cora Raiford, Arlington
I don't believe requiring licenses is the answer. That would be just another tax and more bureaucracy. Boat owners already have to register their boats. Legislators should think about a way to encourage boat owners to take the Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course. …