The Video that Rocked the Boat on Safety Standards

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The social media landscape is transforming the way New York boaters stay safe.

While safety standards have continued to be at the forefront of the Empire State Marine Trades Association initiative, web-based safety material is keeping more people aware and safe.

With the introduction of a short safety video, Lake George officials report to an rising standard of safety and compliance with new and experienced boaters alike. Getting informed about safety is the first step in keeping our waterways safer for everyone and Kathleen Moore of the Post Star covered this accomplishment with exceptional detail. 

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Boater safety video has big impact on Lake George

KATHLEEN MOORE kmoore@poststar.com

An effort to briefly train boaters before they took off in their rental boats this summer has had a remarkable effect, according to the Lake George Park Commission marine patrol.

Only two rental boats were involved in accidents this year, and there were no injuries, said patrol Lt. Joe Johns. In total, only eight accidents were reported on the lake this year that were caused by boating errors, he said. In 2016, there were 18 such accidents.

Johns praised the new boater safety program for the reduction in accidents.

“It’s one of the safest years on the lake,” he said.

Anecdotally, the patrol also saw fewer utterly incompetent boaters on the lake. In previous years, officers had to escort four to five renters back to their boat’s marina and take the boater off the lake.

This year, only one boater was escorted off the lake.

Boating while intoxicated numbers went up after the patrol increased focus on that with an extra boat this summer. But of the 13 BWI tickets, only three were for rental boat operators, Johns said. He added that the lack of a Log Bay Day celebration did not affect the statistics on accidents and BWIs for rental boat operators. Most Log Bay Day participants have not used rental boats, he said.

The program was mostly enforced by the marinas, where each renter had to watch a 6-minute video before receiving a boat. Then a dockhand had to personally show the renter how the boat works, using a patrol-developed checklist to make sure everything was covered.

In addition, the marinas permanently attached a series of cards to each boat, near the operator’s seat. The cards explain each buoy, with pictures; go over the life jacket rules; list what to do in an emergency; and explain that operators may not drive boats drunk.

The patrol got marina support for the program.

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“This helps them get their boat back, and in one piece,” Johns said.

He and other patrol members spot-checked each marina to make sure they were forcing boaters to watch the videos.

What he saw impressed him...

In one case, he said, a man’s child started talking to him during the video. The marina employee turned the video off, explained its importance, and restarted it. Then the man’s phone rang and he took the call. Again the employee stopped the video. When the man stopped watching the video for the third time, the marina canceled his boat rental.

“The person said, ‘Thank you for your time, you won’t be renting from us today,’” he said.

Several marinas told the patrol that they had a few would-be customers who refused to watch the video and threatened to “go somewhere else” to get a boat. They were informed that every marina on the lake was enforcing the rule, Johns said. There are 500 rental boats registered for Lake George, so Johns said thousands of renters must have watched the videos. Marinas did not send figures to the patrol on how many watched.

But whenever he stopped by a marina, people were watching the video, he said.

“And one of the first questions when we stop a rental boat is, did you watch the video? All but one I stopped said yes,” Johns said.

He acknowledged that not every topic could be thoroughly addressed in a six-minute video.

“We wanted it to be the important things, but we didn’t want it to be overbearing,” he said.

He’s already thinking of how to expand the program next year.

“I’m working on ideas right now,” he said.

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You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.