Thursday marked day two of NASBLA's third annual Boating Law Administrator Workshop.
This day began on a solemn note, with the sharing of an educational video produced by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Marine Police Division and the Benjamin Russell High School (BRHS) Media Department. The emotionally charged video illustrates the dangers of operating a boat while intoxicated. Re-enacting a fatal boat crash, it helps convey the message that drinking and driving on the water can kill. The video was completed in the spring of 2007.
Next, Mike Baron with the Coast Guard Division of Boating Safety reported on the Marine Patrol Officer Course (MPOC). As of October 2007 Baron is the new MPOC Manager.
MPOC is designed to enhance the maritime operations of federal, state and local marine patrol officers. It offers students a basic understanding of how to conduct operations alongside the U.S. Coast Guard through exposure to tactical training, regulations and policies, and completion of the 24-hour DUI Standardized Field Sobriety Testing approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in addition to several other blocks of instruction. MPOC will soon be going through the accreditation process. This will give added value to the training.
Next, Barry Nobles with the Coast Guard, took the floor to open discussion about the Vessel Identification System (VIS). Boating law administrators broached the topic of a letter the Coast Guard sent out earlier in the month regarding the low level of participation by the states in the program. BLAs felt the letter had an accusatory tone and they were extremely disappointed that they had not been contacted by the Coast Guard before the letters went out. Nobles admitted the letters were a mistake and apologized. He then asked the BLAs what they wanted. The BLAs suggested a letter of apology be sent out immediately. They also suggested that the Coast Guard be more proactive with regards to communicating with the states in the future – don’t send letters to their governors.
Following this discussion, Gary Chappell with the Coast Guard, gave an update on the VIS. This system is a national database of vessel registrations, titles and ownership. Its created was mandated by Congress 20 years ago. Participation by the states is voluntary. The VIS provides access to data that can be used to help identify a vessel’s ownership history. The data can also be used to generate state and national statistics and reports. It is updated at least monthly. Currently, 16 states participate.
Dave Dahms, vice chair of NASBLA’s Education & Awareness Committee, and Gail Kulp, NASBLA’s education director, discussed NASBLA’s education standards. The standards are the minimum body of knowledge required to be covered in boating safety education courses to effect safe, legal and enjoyable boating.
The Education & Awareness Committee has identified some challenges presented by the current course review process:
  • The state review of Standard 8 is not seen by anyone in the NASBLA office, yet the final approval letter is issued by NASBLA;
  • The content of Standard 8 is comprised of 14 parts, 10 of which are already covered in Standards 1-7;
  • The content of Standard 8 has been found to contain plagiarized information in some courses and leads to a liability issue for NASBLA and the states;
  • A handful of states will not accept the certification of out-of-state temporary boaters or boaters moving in the state from elsewhere;
  • A handful of states refuse to review and/or accept courses.
In an effort to remedy these snags, NASBLA proposes to revamp the course approval process.
The first step would be to redefine the terms “NASBLA-approved” and “Accepted by [state].” A course that has been reviewed by NASBLA and meets Standards 1-9 would be considered “NASBLA-approved.” For a course to be “accepted by [state],” it will meet the state’s requirements and may be taught in that state. States can review the entire course or just a portion of it. Additionally, a state may accept any or all courses. The next step would be to merge the standards, incorporating most of Standard 8 into Standards 1-7. The rest of Standard 8 would remain in place, but NASBLA would complete the review of this information based on the state-specific information provided by the states. Courses would still be reviewed by NASBLA every three years.
The third step would be to create Standard 10 to address delivery and presentation standards for boating safety courses. In as much as content standards are important in creating an effective course, studies show that methods for presenting and/or delivering the content to students are just as important in the education of the students.
The proposal will be discussed with the Education & Awareness Committee in April and with the entire NASBLA membership at the annual conference in September.
Next, Jeff Ludwig with the U.S. Coast Guard, discussed the 2007 JSI PDF Wear Rate Study Executive Studay . Because so many drownings could be prevented if every boater wore a life jacket, it is critical that boating safety advocates understand the circumstances and patterns in which life jackets are used in order to tailor messages and safety education programs accordingly. To help identify potential trends and indicators relating to recreational boaters and life jacket wear, the Coast Guard contracted the JSI Research & Training Institute Inc. to conduct an extensive study. The data are still being analyzed. However, the Coast Guard has some preliminary statistics. The recent JSI study shows that overall the national wear rate is 21.4 percent. This shows no increase from previous years. Additionally, less than 4.1 percent of power boaters (excluding children and personal watercraft users) have been observed wearing a life jacket. Jeff also reported on progress of the National Boater Survey. The survey instruments are awaiting approval. Copies of the proposed survey instruments can be found here, here and here .
During lunch, Kurt and Cindy Kalkomey, owners of Boat Ed, discussed boating safety courses and some of the latest technology being used in presenting educational information. They have incorporated animated video for their online course. They have also worked with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to create a course geared toward those convicted of boating violations. Another project they’ve completed is a boating safety video.
Following lunch, NASBLA staff reported on the NASBLA strategic plan and what is being done to accomplish the plan’s goals and objectives. Much of the work is being done through the organization’s ongoing programs, including officer training courses; marketing, education and outreach initiatives, education; and advances in technology. John Johnson, NASBLA’s Executive Director, also reported on NASBLA’s budget, explaining sources of revenue, uses for state dues, and more.
Next, Alaska’s recent Cold Water Boating DVD was shown to the audience. This video was produced to dispel the myths about hypothermia and explain the dangers of sudden cold water immersion. NASBLA has received a pledge of $16,000 from the United State Power Squadrons to distribute copies of this video.
The day’s meeting adjourned with President John Fetterman encouraging BLAs to stick around for the upcoming Board Academy. NASBLA is a member-driven organization. Recent efforts have succeeded in increasing member participation to nearly 95 percent. This high level of involvement on the part of the members goes a long way toward increasing NASBLA’s national credibility. The Board Academy was developed to explain what Board service entails.