Personal responsibility, by and large, is prized by the Australian community, but somehow the boating fraternity claims to be immune from this requirement – evident in the reluctance to wear lifejackets across the board. Indeed, visit any boat ramp on a sunny weekend and you’ll see common sense and safety coming a distant second to Australia’s macho, seafaring culture. The scariest thing is that families are involved.
The laws on wearing lifejackets vary state to state, but for the most part if you are travelling in a small, powered boat in open waters along the Eastern Seaboard, you’re required to don one, and for good reason.
National Marine Safety Committee (NMSC) research paints a bleak outcome for the mavericks among us, finding that 87.9% of those who died in a recreational boating incident in NSW, Tasmania, Qld and Vic from 2001 to 2005 were not wearing a lifejacket.
Roads and Maritime Services, Maritime division’s NSW Marine’s 2012 Operation Blue Water campaign concluded earlier this week, issuing warnings and fines to those who breached the state’s boating laws. The department justifies its actions, sadly revealing that none of the six victims whose lives were lost in the three fatal crossing incidences last year was wearing a lifejacket – one of those victims was a child.
Which brings us to the heart of the issue: boating is becoming a much more family-orientated sport with risks that arguably rival driving. We’d never allow our children to travel without a seatbelt yet, we balk at wearing a lifejacket.
Are we sending the message that it’s okay to take risks in a boat? Your thoughts?