NMMA voices opposition to mandatory PFD use

WASHINGTON – The National Marine Manufacturers Association has registered its opposition to mandatory wear of personal flotation devices for everyone aboard a vessel underway, NMMA said in a release today.

The NMMA, along with the Personal Watercraft Industry Association and the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association, testified in a forum at the National Transportation Safety Board Academy in Ashburn, Va., that examined the use of PFDs in recreational boating.

“NMMA cares deeply about the safety of our boaters and we want them to wear their lifejackets and to understand that lifejackets could potentially save their lives and the lives of all those aboard their boats,” said NMMA vice president of Government Relations Monita Fontaine. “But simply requiring PFD wear will not change people’s minds and behavior. Educating the public and changing their perception of PFD wear so they want to wear lifejackets and protect themselves and their passengers will do the most to impact the attitudes of the public and foster a safe-boating culture.”

Study supports NMMA position

The forum coincides with the release of a new study revealing broad public opposition to any such mandates. The study was conducted by the Recreational Marine Research Center, a joint venture between NMMA and Michigan State University. It found that 86 percent of boaters who responded to a survey it sent out oppose a requirement that adult boaters wear life jackets while underway in all boats.

Of that 86 percent, the study showed that more than three quarters (76 percent) have confidence that skippers can make their own decision as to who should wear a PFD and under what circumstances. Almost two thirds (64 percent) opposed the requirement because they believed wearing PFDs is not necessary in all types of boats, NMMA said.

Fontaine presented NMMA’s position paper today at the forum, which was designed to gather all available data and to promote an open and informative discussion of policy issues related to mandatory PFD use.

The NMMA said it will “enthusiastically support effective safety measures that balance the rights of boaters, including: graduated mandatory boater education in NASBLA-approved instructional courses, public awareness and education campaigns about boater safety and voluntary PFD wear, increased awareness of new-design PFDs, tougher boating while intoxicated laws and enforcement, and mandatory wear for children under 13 years of age, among others.”

Thom Dammrich, NMMA president, said he was grateful to NTSB for its commitment to recreational boating safety and, “for extending the marine manufacturing industry the opportunity to weigh in on this important safety debate. We are confident that innovative solutions to increase voluntary PFD wear exist and those solutions should be given sufficient time to work.”

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