No doubt most tourists assume these regulations are already in place. But in Florida, Jones explained, there are no particular requirements for a parasail business, other than the general maritime stuff, like life jackets, on-board observers and prohibitions against operating 30 minutes after sunset or in the Intracoastal Waterway. None of the state’s 120 commercial parasail outfits need to undergo safety training or licensing. No one inspects their boats or harnesses or tow ropes. No government agency makes sure they have insurance. All they need to do is show up with a kite and a rope and a boat. No rules. No insurance.
But once again, the notion of “too much government” trumped public safety. “Certain ultra conservative members of the Legislature are basically against any regulation,” said the Republican Jones. “They talk about government intrusion in people’s lives. And that the last thing they want to do is add more cost to doing business in Florida,” Jones said. His argument that protecting tourists from unsafe operators was actually a good business tactic for the state’s tourism industry did not convince the Senate leadership to move his bill out of committee.
The problem, he complained, is that the media only reports on the occasional fatalities caused by the unregulated parasail industry. “You guys only write about this when somebody’s killed,” he said. “The public doesn’t know about the broken legs, the punctured lungs and the fractured pelvises.” If the public was aware of the injuries, as well as the deaths, he said, there’d be a great clamor for safety regulations.
Jones, term limited, won’t be in the Senate next year. “But I predict that someday this legislation will pass. But unfortunately, it won’t come until after we have additional fatalities.”
Until then, perhaps the U.S. State Department should issue a traveler’s safety warning — for Florida:
“Parasailing has killed U.S. citizen tourists who were dragged through palm trees or were slammed into buildings. Florida’s third-world safety regulations are definitely not up to U.S. standards.”