Let's see, now, an individual must pass a quiz, take a test and practice with a co-pilot before getting a driver's license. Even to operate a motorcycle, a license showing some level of competency is required.

In order to operate a boat, however, an individual simply needs to buy a boat. No test, no quiz, no proof of driving skills.

In researching the story on boating safety, I discovered Utah is among 11 states that do not require boaters be educated — 39 states do.

True, there are no divided highways or passing lanes or proper right and left turns. But because of it, driving a boat is a little more difficult, especially when there's a person or persons in tow. Drivers must be aware of what's coming toward them from all directions, as well as surveying the surface of the water.

Which brings out an interesting statistic from the U.S. Coast Guard: 70 percent of reported deaths in the United States occurred on recreational boats where the operator had not received any formal boating safety instruction. The report goes on to note that "boating fatalities occur because boaters aren't educated about boating safety."

Insurance companies have seen the correlation between boating education and safe boating. Representatives came to Utah to present their case to lawmakers and asked they adopt a law requiring safety certification.

Knowing lives could be saved and the number of accidents reduced, why would anyone oppose such a law?

Well, it didn't pass. Nor did such a law pass in two earlier sessions.

One lawmaker suggested the law only apply to younger boat drivers and exempt middle-age boaters.

The problem is most of the drivers involved in boating accidents are between 35 and 55, which is understandable since they are in the age classes that can afford to own a boat.

Safety education works. Look at Utah's hunter education program.

Utah introduced a hunter education program after a particularly bad year in 1957 — 126 accidents, 93 involving juveniles and 22 fatalities. During the 1980s, the average was about 10 accidents a year, with about half involving juveniles, and an average of fewer than two fatalities a year. Now the accident rate is even lower.

Utah pioneered the hunter-ed program and, because of it, went from having one of the worst safety records to the best.

Simply put, it teaches hunter safety.

And it's obvious some safety training is needed here in Utah.

According to Coast Guard studies, Utahns are among America's worst boaters.

Again, looking at Coast Guard figures, most accidents on a national level involve a collision with another vessel (1,360 in 2006), collision with a fixed object (517) and collision with a floating object (142).

Which simply means the No. 1 contributing factors to boating accidents is "operator inattention."

I don't think there's any question that a boating safety course would help. And it wouldn't hurt Utah boaters to take such a course. And while it may be a little inconvenient, it is very likely going to save lives.

I have no idea why our lawmakers choose not to support a safety program. Apparently, there was no real opposition to passage of such a bill.

My guess is it came down to "lawmaker inattention."


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