New York Needs Brianna's Law

The Editorial Board

July 24, 2019

Originally published in Newsday on July 24, 2019.

Senator Brooks speaks of the need for Brianna's Law to be signed by the Governor at a press conference in Wantagh Park marina. With Gina Lienek, Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Nassau Executive Laura Curran, Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, and officers of the Nassau County Marine Bureau.

Gov. Cuomo must sign the bill named for Brianna Lieneck - an 11-year-old killed in a Great South Bay boating accident.

Long Islanders have a love affair with the water. It’s all around us, and most of the time it is fun and harmless.

But sometimes it’s not, a point driven home by recent events. On one weekend earlier this month, two women died and four other people were hospitalized following offshore boating accidents. This past weekend, a Sag Harbor man was charged with boating while intoxicated after crashing his boat at a North Haven dock, sending himself and two passengers to hospitals for treatment.

All of which is why Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must sign a bill known as Brianna’s Law, named for 11-year-old Brianna Lieneck, a Deer Park girl killed in a 2005 boating accident in Great South Bay that also seriously injured her parents and sister. The measure requires any powerboat operator older than 10 to take a boating safety course. State law currently requires education classes for powerboat operators born after May 1, 1996, which is like saying only landlubbers 23 or younger need to get a driver’s license. Safety — and stupidity — know no age limits.

Statistics show that boating has become safer over the years, locally and nationally. Regulations have tightened. Advances have been made in safety equipment. Boat operator education and policing have improved. But there is room to do better.

There also are common-sense measures boaters and passengers can adopt without new laws.

Wear life jackets — even the paddleboarders, canoeists and kayakers required to have them aboard but not to don them. Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs and operate a boat. Respect the weather, the currents and the limits of your boating skills. Be careful around other boaters.

Being smart is being safe. Governor, sign the bill.

— The editorial board