On the Fourth of July, I was at a friend’s apartment at the end of North Venetian Drive to watch the fireworks display; always a delight to see.
As we waited for the show to begin, we saw the boats heading south toward downtown in a somewhat orderly procession.
But we couldn’t help but notice that there was an abundance of boats without proper running lights and that the boat operators had a lack of understanding the rules of the waterway and a disregard for speed limits, especially around the bridge and near the shoreline.
We even saw a very crowded boat, without proper running lights, being stopped by a patrol boat and then allowed to continue without a change in its configuration.
As captivating as fireworks can be, we discovered something even more captivating after the show — the complete and utter chaos of the mass exodus of boats immediately following the show.
I would be conservative in estimating that a least 20 percent of the boats were either without the proper running lights on or any lights at all. And this is while it began raining, in the dark, when one’s vision is already impaired. That’s not even taking into account the alcohol levels of some of these pilots.
And, of course, what about the manatees?
As a native Miamian, having spent plenty of time on the water either in my own boats or someone else’s, I have seen a significant increase in watercrafts in our area as we have grown.
At some point, with this level of activity, there needs to be an enforcement of the rules and regulations of the waterway that is commensurate with the increase of its users.
What we observed was a tragic accident waiting to happen. Must we wait until that time when everyone starts pointing fingers saying more should have been done? Will taxpayers bear the brunt of a liability claim against one government agency or another for its negligence? Will law-abiding boat owners, have to pay higher insurance rates as a result of an increased number of accidents?
These vehicles are powerful and dangerous, especially in the hands of people who are untrained, unknowledgeable and disrespectful of the “rules of the road.”
There should be licensing that requires a demonstration of, at a minimum, a basic understanding of the rules of operating a watercraft before one is allowed to, even past the age of 21. The revenues from the licensing can be used to improve boater safety and enforcement of the rules and avoid unfavorable statistics.
Samuel Getz, Miami Beach