Just over a year after 16-year-old Greenwich, Connecticut resident Emily Fedorko died in a boating accident, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law new regulations to enforce safe boating practices across the state.
The bill, titled “Emily’s Law,” creates stricter standards for any person wishing to pilot a boat for towing. Individuals now have to be over the age of 16, acquire a safe boating certification and receive additional safe towing instruction from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Fedorko was killed while being towed by a power boat piloted by her 16-year-old friend, who was a certified powerboat pilot.
Prior to the law’s signing, those under the age of 16 were able to operate a vessel for towing without being certified. DEEP, the Marine Police, the United States Power Squadron and Fedorko’s family all voiced support for the legislation.
“While we all know that it is impossible to legislate out of existence the possibility of any accident, Senate Bill 699, Emily’s Bill, seeks to minimize the possibility of another tragedy similar to this one,” State Sen. Scott Frantz said at an Environment Committee public hearing testimony in February.
Frantz added that youth pilots pose a threat to the safety of themselves and others on the water due to their general lack of experience.
While the law has garnered substantial support, its critics see it as an example of superfluous regulation. Gary Rose, chairman of the Department of Government and Politics at Sacred Heart University, referred to Emily’s Law as an “overreaction” and a “manifestation of our pro-government state.”
“[We are] too quick to find government solutions to what are really personal issues,” Rose said.
Similarly, some Yale students said this legislation is not addressing a deeper-rooted issue: a lack of long-term education on risky behavior.
“Developing a culture of shrewd risk awareness and assessment is a more effective strategy than trying to legislate away a safety problem,” said Marcus Russi ’17, co-coordinator of Yale Outdoors.
However, Fedorko’s family members linked the regulations to those placed upon minors that receive a preliminary driver’s license and underscore that the heart of this bill is education, particularly through the additional safe towing instruction.
In a statement before the Environment Committee last February, Joseph Fedorko, Emily’s father, said education is the best way to teach young adults safety nationwide.
“Connecticut has led the way in water safety,” Fedorko said at the hearing. “We need to continue to follow that trend and adapt to make our waters even safer.”
Joseph and Pamela Fedorko co-founded the Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation, which advocates for increased training and education around safe boating practices, in honor of their late daughter last October.