BRANSON, Mo – A new Missouri boating bill would relax some safety measures, making it legal for passengers to sit on the bow of certain boats while the engine is running.
The only thing Senate Bill 65 still needs to become law is a signature from Gov. Eric Greitens. Because the bill was sent to Greitens for a signature on May 22, after the regular legislative session ended, the governor has 45 days from that date to either sign or veto the bill. If he’s done neither by the end of the 45-day period, the bill will automatically become law.
Some boaters told KOLR 10 they have safety concerns about the bill as Tuesday marks day 22 of 45.
Lynn Wilson, owner of Ozark Trout Resort on Lake Taneycomo, has learned one lesson first-hand after 20 years on the water.
“Sometimes the water don’t give you a second chance,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he’s heard countless stories about what happens when someone sits on the bow of a boat while it’s moving.
“She was sitting in the front and hit something, flipped out, and the propeller hit her arm, but she lost her arm,” Wilson said. “Death can come just as easy as an arm.”
That’s why Wilson said he asks one simple thing of his boat renters.
“I ask them not to sit on the front seat if they’re moving any speed at all, to move to the back, pontoon or their regular fishing boats,” Wilson said.
Those are the same types of boats the bill mentions – boats with outboard motors and boats not originally made with guards or railing.
The office of State Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), one of the bill sponsors, said the bill is aimed specifically at fishermen – and that water patrol approves of the bill.
“If people are on a large boat that happens not to have a rail, and they’re sitting on the bow of that boat and they’re doing something that is dangerous, I think water patrol already has the authority to stop that kind of behavior,” Dan Kleinsorge, Schatz’ chief of staff, said.
But some boaters, like mom and pontoon owner Julie Knowlton, see the bill as a gateway to dangerous habits.
“I just think if they made it legal, too many people would take advantage of the little they’re given and get careless,” Knowlton said.
Kleinsorge disagreed, “This feels a little unfounded I guess is what I’m saying. I don’t think this is going to open some floodgate of dangerous behavior on the waterways.”
Knowlton said the thought of her kids falling out of a moving boat is terrifying: ” I would probably It is a nightmare.”
It’s a nightmare Wilson is familiar with.
“They just hit a big wake and the child just bounced out and went air borne out of the boat and did not survive,” Wilson said.
If Senate Bill 65 becomes law, it will take effect on August 28.