It’s Time for New Duck Boat Safety Laws in Washington | Stephen Bulzomi

Last spring, I was interviewed by the Boston Herald regarding the Boston Ride the Ducks crash that led to the death of a 29-year-old woman. Since the tragic crash, there have been various duck boat-related new stories that have made headlines around the United States.

In the previous month, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled the probable cause of the 2015 crash was likely due to mechanical failure and improper maintenance of the duck boat vehicle, along with lack of oversight years before the crash. In addition, the NTSB chairman attributes the lack of seat belts and poorly maintained seats as a contributing factor to the severity of the crash.

The Importance of Duck Boat Safety Laws

Seattle duck boat crash by the Seattle Times
Photo cred: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Since Ride The Ducks International failed to register with the Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a manufacturer, the administration could not address defects and ensure better safety oversight. Ride the Ducks Seattle, an independently owned and operated company, was also criticized for failing to address a safety bulletin in 2013 that warned of problems with the axle housings on the vehicles, the issue that eventually caused the 2015 crash.

Ride the Ducks of Seattle no longer travels on the Aurora Bridge and now requires two crew members to work on board while on the road, as a part of their company policy.

Originally created to invade other countries in WWII, military-style duck boat vehicles were not designed to transport dozens of passengers through crowded cities. As I have previously addressed in a past blog post, blind spots cameras, sensors, seat belts or proper restraints are a few examples of safety equipment that need to be mandatory on all duck boat vehicles. Due to its sheer size and length, these vehicles have huge blind spots that poise as a danger to pedestrians and other motorists on the road. In fact, I represented a Seattle motorcyclist who was run over and dragged by a duck boat vehicle that came up behind him at a stoplight in 2011.

At the very least, strict safety laws and regulations need to be put in place in the state of Washington to prevent future fatal duck boat-related crashes from occurring. Our lawmakers should look to Massachusetts as an example. Massachusetts recently passed a new duck boat safety law that requires the vehicles to be equipped with blind spot cameras and proximity sensors. In addition, all duck boat operators are required by law to separate the responsibilities of driver and tour guide, effective on April 1st. Single-person crews, with the driver also as the narrator, will no longer be allowed.

As a personal injury attorney for more than 30 years—along with having legal experience in duck boat injury cases—I firmly believe that our streets would be safer without the presence of duck boat tours. Until the city of Seattle decides to put the safety of their residents as the top priority, always be aware of your surroundings and stay safe out there.

This article was originally published on Stephen Bulzomi’s website.

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