NMMA testifies against Massachusetts life jacket legislation

BOSTON — Nicole Vasilaros, state government affairs manager for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, testified earlier this week at a State House hearing in Massachusetts on a bill requiring all adult boaters to wear life jackets on board any boat under 20 feet while the boat is in operation.

Massachusetts law currently requires children under the age of 12 wear life jackets. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth).

Vasilaros said that NMMA strongly supports recreational boating safety through education certification for all boat operators and mandated PFD usage for those riding personal watercraft due to the unique nature of that boating experience. However, the group opposes mandatory PFD wear for all adults on vessels under 20 feet in length.

"These vessels are already required to have PFDs on board and we believe HB 646 would not serve to improve boating safety," Vasilaros testified. "Additionally, HB 646 burdens law enforcement efforts at a time when resources are scarce and would be an unproductive diversion of the limited waterways enforcement activities."

Vasilaros said NMMA would prefer to see efforts directed toward education.

"Boating safety laws should be implemented in a cost-effective manner and focus on regulations most likely to change behavior and improve the safety of the Commonwealth’s waterways," she said. "Education is the best tool to prevent boating accidents and improve boating safety and therefore we support the strong boater education requirements in HB 2913, which is currently before this committee. Rather than mandating PFD wear, we request that this committee proceed with strong boater education legislation and allow these efforts time to take effect."

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If enacted, HB 2913 would provide boater education, phase in certification requirements based on operator age and mandate universal boater education for PWC users.

The NMMA and the Personal Watercraft Industry Association also testified on a bill that replaces state authority by granting municipalities the right to single out personal watercrafts for regulations and bans that would not apply to other boats. PWIA opposes the legislation, which it says denies open and equitable access to the state's waterways.

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