Death of Ten-Year-Old Inspires New Boating Safety Law

boating laws

Laws are enacted for many reasons. One bill was signed into law by Governor Christie in January because of the death of a ten-year-old. Christopher D’Amico of Mt. Arlington and his father were using a rented pontoon boat on Lake Hopatcong in June of 2015. Christopher fell overboard, was struck by the boat, suffered head injuries and died, according to

The D’Amico family and others lobbied for the creation of “Christopher’s Law” which requires those renting pontoon boats to complete an instruction course to safely operate them. “Our goal is to educate the boating public in order to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future,” bill co-sponsor Anthony Bucco of Morris was quoted as saying in the Roxbury Register.

These are features of the new law:

  • Those renting pontoon boats must complete safety instruction before leaving the dock.
  • Owners of pontoon rentals must alert customers to the dangers of operating the boat by posting a large metallic sign that reads “Warning: Rotating propellers can cause serious injury or death.”
  • The sign must be clearly placed at the rental business entrance and show a person near a propeller with the universal “No” sign.

The D’Amico family turned this tragedy into something positive by not only starting the effort to pass the law which could prevent future, similar accidents, but they also donated Christopher’s organs so that others could live better lives.

Christopher is one of thousands of Americans who are injured and killed in boating accidents every year. According to the U.S. Coast Guard statistics for 2014:

  • There were 4,064 reported boating accidents that killed 610 people and injured 2,678.
  • Of the 610 fatalities, 255 involved boat operators who had no formal instructions on how to operate the boats.
  • That year in New Jersey there were 111 reported accidents causing three deaths and 77 injuries. The state had one the lowest fatality rates for boaters in the country.

The Coast Guard reports that the most common, major contributing factors to 2014 boating accidents were:

  • Operator inattention
  • Improper lookout
  • Operator inexperience
  • Excessive speed
  • Alcohol use
  • Machinery failure (mostly engine failure)
  • Navigation rules violation.

The most common types of boating accidents were:

  • A collision with a recreational boat
  • Floodingor swamping of the boat
  • Collision with a fixed object
  • Grounding
  • Capsizing
  • A mishap with a water skier.

We often refer jokingly to boats as “big boy toys,” but boating is serious business because the operator, the passengers and those on other boats are at risk of injuries and death if an accident occurs. Education of operators, especially those who may be inexperienced boat renters, makes sense.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of another in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao at (973) 358-6134 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the accident, how the law may apply and your best options to collect compensation.

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