Your chance to comment: National Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) Program 2017-2021 Strategic Plan

“We’re from the government and we’re here to help.” No, really! The USCG has published a draft of the RBS 2017-2021 Strategic Plan and it’s open to public comment through April 20th, 2016. If you are concerned about boating safety, it’s worth a read. It’s not overly technical and is only 24 pages long, so it’s not too burdensome to get through it.

I usually harbor healthy skepticism when the government tries to ‘help’, because so often we see attempts to regulate common sense via creating new laws and restrictions of dubious value. But in this case, I think the USCG is to be applauded for the effort.

There are three main thrusts to this strategic plan.

  1. Improve education and outreach
  2. Leverage and enforce policies and standards
  3. Expand data collection and research

In each case, there are goals and specific, time phased courses of action laid out. In general I think they are sound. They do acknowledge up front that due to lots of work and public awareness that total accidents and fatalities are down to their lowest levels in history, so drastic changes are not needed. But, as long as there are any recreational boating fatalities it’s worth trying to improve safety.

To improve education, they make the case for establishing a national standard. A part of me is leery about how this would actually be implemented (regulation) but with the current variety of state to state education requirements, if it’s possible to inject common sense into the process then it may be a worthwhile endeavor.

Leveraging and enforcing policies and standards speaks in part to the need to better align our efforts in many respects, for example Boating Under the Influence (BUI). There’s room for improvement here by teaming land based DUI practices with waterborne BUI. There’s also a proposed effort to mandate the use of LED for nav lights by 2021 in order to increase visibility.

The third push, expanding recreational boating data collection and research makes sense to me. It’s a question of trying to control what you can’t measure – and the USCG readily admits that the current databases for safety issues and accident data are behind the times, i.e. largely stovepiped. Better coordination here would certainly help identify trends and therefore provide info that would increase the effectiveness of safety education and outreach.

Overall I think this draft represents a good effort. Keeping up efforts to improve safety in a thoughtful, reasoned way as it would appear this strategy advocates, can only be good for all of us who love to be on the water.


Broker with United Yacht Sales, retired Marine aviator, passionate boater, student of naval architecture, runner, triathlete and coffee geek

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