Duck boats — amphibious vehicles that can travel on land and water — have been all over the news recently, and not for a good reason. Last week, 17 people were killed in a duck boat accident when a sudden storm caught a boat out on a Missouri lake. The boat capsized and left tourists to fend for themselves as they struggled to get to safety.
But according to reports, the federal government has long been warning tourists that duck boats aren't safe. Because the vehicle is neither entirely a boat or bus it is regulated equally by two different governing bodies: the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on land and the Coast Guard on water. This split in regulatory purview has meant there is a serious lack of oversight and sometimes contradictory regulations.
For example, according to a report by USA Today, "The Coast Guard requires life jackets on boats but leaves it to the vessel's master to tell passengers when to wear the jackets during hazardous situations." Yet, "the NTSB recommend[s] passengers not wear life jackets on boats that have canopies because when the vehicles sink, the life jackets carry passengers into the canopy, preventing escape."
It is unclear whether or not life jackets would have helped or further imperiled the passengers of the most recent accident. But what is clear is that these vehicles are not safe as they are currently regulated. In fact, some have even called them "death traps."
"Death traps" isn't an undeserved description. The most recent tragedy is not the first duck boat accident to result in death. In 1999, 13 people died on an Arkansas duck boat ride. In 2002, four people lost their lives in Quebec, Canada. And two people were killed in 2010 in a duck boat accident in Philadelphia.
How many more people must die before the government takes real action? Until concrete, binding regulations are devised not one more duck boat should be allowed to set sail.
Sign the petition and demand the NTSB and Coast Guard ground duck boats today.