TRENTON – Senator Paul A. Sarlo today said the tragic boat accident at the mouth of the Metedeconk River early Sunday demonstrates the need for a speed limit “as low as 10 miles per hour” on Barnegat Bay and all inland waterways during night hours in New Jersey.
“I will sponsor legislation to be drafted in conjunction with the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Division and the Boat Regulation Commission designed to slow boats down when visibility is limited and danger is heightened,” said Senator Sarlo, a frequent visitor to the Jersey Shore.
Currently, there are no speed limits on Barnegat Bay or any inland waterways, but boaters are required to operate their crafts in a safe manner, according to Lt. Frank Ofner, assistant bureau chief of the State Police Marine Services Division.
Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, said he already has had extensive discussions with boaters and those who reside near Barnegat Bay who have told him a night speed limit of 10 mph will greatly reduce dangers of collisions at night because of the great number of boats of all sizes and speeds in the summer season.
“This type of senseless tragedy involving boats at night was brought home to me a dozen and a half years ago when the well-known Dinallo Family of Bergen County lost two teenage sons and a 28-year-old cousin in a similar night boating accident,” Senator Sarlo said.
Senator Sarlo said his staff on Tuesday contacted Roger K. Brown, Chairman of the Boat Regulation Commission and the State Police to inform them of his interest in helping to curb speeding boats on Barnegat Bay, especially at night.
“I realize efforts to impose speed limits in the past have been controversial and unsuccessful, but I believe there will be sufficient public support now,” said Senator Sarlo. “Speeding boats at night on Barnegat Bay, combined with the all-too frequent floating cocktail parties and unskilled boaters, are recipes for disaster,” Senator Sarlo said.
Several years ago, a push to impose speed limits resulted in a compromise effort to put up buoys marked “slow speed, no wake,” which authorities say are supposed to restrict boats to speed limits not to exceed 5 miles per hour.
Robert Post, 49, of Essex Fells and Bay Head, was killed and four others were injured about 1 a.m. on Sunday when his 17-foot boat was struck by a power boat. State Police are investigating whether it was hit by a damaged 27-foot speedboat whose owner contacted authorities through his lawyer on Monday. The owner denies being aware of hitting the smaller craft, police said.
Senator Sarlo, Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, Vice Chair of the Senate Budger & Appropriations Committee and a veteran member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will press for prompt legislative action when his draft bill is completed.
“The issues of speed limits for boaters have been discussed for years,” Senator Sarlo said. “Now I believe is the time to act.”