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New York in need of Brianna's Law

Cuomo must sign bill named after 11-year-old killed in a boating accident.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks about boater

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks about boater safety Monday at a news conference at Wantagh Park. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

New York City is surrounded by water. We use it for transportation and, especially when warm weather beckons, for recreation.

That’s when the boaters among us swing into action, whether from City Island in the Bronx or Flushing Bay in Queens, whether cruising on the Hudson River or criss-crossing New York Harbor, or setting off from a marina in southern Brooklyn or Queens.

Most of the time it’s fun and harmless.

But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, boaters get into accidents, with tragic consequences. As recently as last August, a personal watercraft operator died from head injuries when the craft struck a boat in Little Neck Bay in Queens. This month, two people died and at least seven people went to hospitals with injuries after several crashes on Long Island.

All of which is why Gov. Andrew Cuomo must sign a bill known as Brianna’s Law, named for 11-year-old Brianna Lieneck, a Long Island girl killed in a 2005 boating accident along the Island’s South Shore that also seriously injured her parents and sister. The measure requires any powerboat operator older than 10 to take a boating safety course. State law currently requires education classes for powerboat operators born after May 1, 1996, which is like saying only landlubbers 23 or younger need to get a driver’s license. Safety — and stupidity — know no age limits.

Statistics show that boating has become safer over the years, in New York and across the nation. Regulations have tightened. Advances have been made in safety equipment. Boat operator education and policing have improved. But there is room to do better. There also are common-sense measures boaters and passengers can adopt without new laws.

Wear life jackets — even the paddleboarders, canoeists and kayakers required to have them aboard but not to don them. Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs and operate a boat. Respect the weather, the currents and the limits of your boating skills. Be careful around other boaters.

Being smart is being safe. Governor, sign the bill.


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