In the February issue, I expounded on the efforts by lobbyists, state lawmakers and the U.S. Coast Guard to promulgate laws requiring mandatory life-jacket wear. I also suggested education could better eliminate accidents, as could greater enforcement of DUI laws. Then I steadied myself for the onslaught of mail. I wasn’t disappointed — I was surprised.
I was called stupid in only one letter, from a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer. A Power Squadrons guy from Canada liked the word ridiculous better. A more circumspect gentleman from the Long Island area called the editorial “interesting” but supported mandatory wear.
No less than six Auxiliarists wrote in agreement that education was a better solution than mandatory wear. “Educated boaters can make their own decisions as to when it is necessary to wear PFDs,” said Ron Hagget of Florida. He, by the way, is a former Coast Guard Auxiliary commander and commodore of his local boat club.
Robert Cox, a 60-year marine industry veteran, sees mandated wear like so much regulatory overkill and took my side. “Absolutely agree,” he said. “My home is far more dangerous than my boat and needs congressional inspection and your tax money to fix it.”
Dozens of other readers wrote to tell me I could take my helmet off; they weren’t after me with a bat. In fact, the vast majority of letter writers voiced opinions like Dave Wallace’s. He listed his alias as “the Bareheaded Biker.” He went momentarily off topic, questioning the efficacy of a helmet. “With me, it was always my hands, elbows and knees that did the bleeding. Boating is too complex an activity to be covered by a blanket law.”
No doubt. But, whichever side of the debate you are on, I can tell you no topic, not even the notorious swimsuit issue, brought in more mail. And most of it, like the note from Jim Stickney of North Liberty, Iowa, from the Power Squadrons as well, a former commander, was looking for more information on anything the writers could do to campaign against further mandatory lifejacket regulation.
Want to read more thoughts from readers on life jackets? Visit boatingmag.com/pfd to see our letter file on the subject.