Garbarino sponsors legislation to improve boating safety

Toward improving boating safety in America, U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) on June 27 unveiled legislation that would require a report on recreational vessel operator education and training from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

“According to a 2020 USCG report, boat operators who did not receive boating safety instruction were involved in 77 percent of fatal recreational boating accidents nationwide,” said Rep. Garbarino, who sponsored the Brianna Lieneck Boating Safety Act of 2023, H.R. 4376.

If enacted, H.R. 4376, which is cosponsored by two other Republicans, aims to reduce the number of boating accidents that occur due to untrained boat operators, according to a bill summary provided by the congressman’s staff.

H.R. 4376 is named for 11-year-old Brianna Lieneck from Long Island, who was killed in a boating accident in August 2005 when a 25-foot boat driven by an unlicensed boat operator collided with a boat carrying her and her family. Since then, her mother, Gina Lieneck, has advocated for mandatory licenses for all boaters.

“Many Long Islanders spend their summers enjoying boating and other water activities, but if we don’t proactively prioritize safety, that’s when tragedies, like the one that befell the Lieneck family, happen,” Rep. Garbarino said. “The Brianna Lieneck Boating Safety Act of 2023 will help eliminate these incidents and keep boaters on Long Island and around the country safe through education and training programs.”

Specifically, H.R. 4376 would require the report be made to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee regarding recreational vessel operator training.

The study and report would include a review of Coast Guard Auxiliary and Power Squadron training programs, existing state boating education programs, and other hands-on training programs available to recreational vessel operators, according to the bill summary.

Additionally, the report would have to include steps the USCG and National Association of State Boating Law Administrators have taken to encourage states to adopt mandatory recreational vessel operator training, and a section outlining the minimum standards for education of recreational vessel operators, among other provisions.

Gina Lieneck pointed out that every year, too many Americans are injured or killed due to preventable recreational boating accidents on America’s waterways. 

“All boat operators, passengers, or concerned individuals can make a difference,” she said. “I ask all the members of Congress to please sign on to the Brianna Lieneck Boating Safety Act of 2023.”