Coast Guard Propeller Safety PSA Response
Reveals Boating Industry’s True Colors

Boating Industry BANNED USCG
Propeller Safety Public Service Announcement

In late August 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) released the Propeller Safety Public Service Announcement Video Don’t Wreck Your Summer and posted it on the YouTube boating safety channel. The 30 second video shows a boat party involving young pretty people, music, and alcohol quickly turning into a propeller accident. It ends with a “Boat Responsibly” placard.

USCG took down the Propeller Safety Public Service Announcement Don’t Wreck Your Summer video approximately November 8, 2010 due to industry pressure. The PSA was effectively BANNED by the industry.

Don't Wreck Your Summer

Don't Wreck Your Summer - USCG PSA

We urge those with strong feelings EITHER WAY about USCG’s response of pulling the PSA video Don’t Wreck Your Summer down to write:

Rear Admiral Kevin Cook
Director of Prevention Policy
Prevention Policy Directorate (CG-54)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20593

Or, you can contact Admiral Cook’s office by sending an email to his administrator at: germaine.y.jefferson@uscg.mil

We wrote a letter to Rear Admiral Kevin Cook on the PSA.

We welcome copies of similar letters to Rear Admiral Cook from the industry pleading their position (stop the PSA) as well. Just email them to us and we will post them so your viewpoint can be heard here as well. We are still waiting, please send us your letters.


As soon as the Coast Guard propeller safety video Don’t Wreck Your Summer was posted, the industry was furious. They claim it shows boating in a bad light and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) should go back to focusing on Public Service Announcements (PSAs) targeting increasing life jacket (Personal Floatation Device / PFD) wear rates and boating under the influence.

Then about October 16, 2010, the one minute Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA video was revised by USCG. We watched the old and new video side by side several times before we finally caught the changes. Near the start it shows 6 boats together side by side from the aft. Between about 8 and 11 seconds into the video, that view in the original video, shows the horsepower ratings on the triple outboards on the subject boat of the video (Mercury Verado outboards) and the Verado logo so small it is basically unreadable. The revised video blots out the horsepower numbers and Mercury Verado logo by “painting” those areas of the video black. They did the same thing at about 28 seconds into the video where it shows the soon to be victim in the water behind the outboards.

We assume those changes are a result of the controversy raised below. USCG had covered over Mercury’s logo (the word “Mercury” on the side of the drive) before they shot the original version of the video. Mercury’s horsepower labels are somewhat distinctive and we suspect Brunswick asked to have them blotted out, along with the small Verado logo.

For a few days, you could currently view all three videos (30 second PSA Don’t Wreck Your Summer, original one minute PSA Don’t Wreck Your Summer, revised one minute PSA Don’t Wreck Your Summer) from the USCG Boating Safety Channel on YouTube.

Approximately November 8, 2010, USCG succumbed to industry pressure and removed the Don’t Wreck Your Summer Public Service Announcement PSA videos pending further review – and we are still waiting!

In mid July 2011, I came across a quote in the 1989 National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) Subcommittee on Propeller Guards report the industry often quotes. I thought was pretty interesting in light of current circumstances. The 1989 report concludes on pages 24-25 with six recommendations. The industry is always quoting recommendation Number 1 (The U.S. Coast Guard should take no regulatory action to require propeller guards.) We quote recommendation number 3 from that same report below:

“The U.S. Coast Guard should implement necessary steps to have included in national and state level educational and awareness campaigns the information regarding potential hazards associated with careless or negligent boat operation. Such programs should be on a continuing basis and be as vivid as possible in depicting underwater impact accident scenarios. These programs should state in a positive manner how such accidents can be prevented by informed boat operators.”

The same Propeller Guard subcommittee they keep heralding the findings of also said educational and awareness programs should “be as vivid as possible in depicting underwater impact accident scenarios.” Maybe they changed their mind about that recommendation?

USCG Propeller PSA drive logo comparison photo

USCG Propeller PSA drive logo comparison photos

Earlier, the video was slightly altered to remove the Mercury Marine Verado drive logos as seen in the before and after photos at left. They just blacked out the logos and horsepower numbers using some video editing software.

Boating Industry Comments Against the PSA and Other Responses include:

  • Coast Guard PSA Goes Over the Top! 5 October 2010 Soundings Trade Only blog post by Norman Schultz.
  • MRAA Deems New Coast Guard PSA “Offensive”. 1 October 2010 post on Boating Industry.
  • Coast Guard Digest Daily Summary for 1 October 2010. Countered the accusations with a couple party boat videos illustrating some real life situations very similar to that “staged” by the PSA.
  • Shocking Coast Guard Safety Video Draws Fire. Boating Local by Tom Richardson October 4, 2010 post.
  • New Coast Guard PSA Somes Under Fire for Being the Truth Opinion. Ryan Erickson’s blog covering USCG topics. 1 October 2010 post on the PSA discussion.
  • Did the Coast Guard Discontinue a Controversial PSA Due to Industry Pressure? Ryan Erickson covers the pulling down of the PSA and cites our coverage and an email I sent him. So far, he is the only site other than ours and some “members only” sites to acknowledge USCG pulled the plug on the PSA. His post is dated 30 November 2010. Mr. Erickson has since moved his site to a new URL and these materials are no longer available online. We do have an archive of them.
  • Impact + Retention = Behavioral Change. Water Safety Journal. Newsletter of the National Water Safety Congress. October 2010. Vol.26. No.3. Page 7. USCG tells us what a great job the new “impact” video PSA is doing because it allows boaters to vicariously experience the consequences of irresponsible operation and high risk behaviors. The article was written by John Malatak, Chief Program Operations, U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division. USCG tells us what a great job the Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA video is doing in an October newsletter, then bowed to industry pressure and pulled it down in early November.

Some Thoughts From Others

Following the comments posted to the blogs above, plus interacting with several others following the events surrounding the Public Service Announcement (PSA) being pulled down, and visiting online with some open minded individuals, we have gleaned several interesting comments and perspectives.

  • They point out I and other propeller safety advocates may be a little too close to the issue and see the Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA as a Propeller Safety PSA. They see it as a boat responsibly PSA focusing on the dangers of alcohol and not paying attention to what is going on around you. I appreciate them pointing out the general public will probably interpret the PSA as a “Don’t drink too much” / “Don’t party too wild” PSA, not as propeller safety PSA. If boaters get and respond to that message, propeller injuries will go down too.
  • One person thought the USCG Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA was “over the top” (meaning it showed a raft-up party environment wilder than really exists out there. I provided them the YouTube links below and they responded saying they now definitely see how things can get out of hand.
  • The responses in the online forums are overwhelmingly in support of the Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA.
  • One writer pointed out it is not boats and engines being spotlighted, its the behavior. They thought the minority having a knee jerk response to the propeller issue and demanding pulling the Don’t Wreck Your Summer Public Service Announcement PSA are just too worried and worked up about a message that was not the focus of the PSA.
  • Drunk driving PSAs and Texting driving PSAs are not indictments of the auto industry or phone companies, plus they have not hurt sales of those products.
  • PSAs in Europe are far more graphic, like this Texting While Driving PSA from the UK, UK Texting and Driving PSA
  • Many commenters thought the U.S. Coast Guard Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA was very effective.
  • One well known boating writer noted its not just raft ups that are dangerous. “There’s lots of scary boating behavior.” The writer has quite boating on weekends due to concern for personal safety.
  • Many boat dealers and boat retailers offer instructions to new and potential new owners. Those instructions should include fundamentals of safe operation which include pointing out some of the dangers faced by boaters and others in the water. Those instructions do not drive away potential customers, nor should the PSA.
  • A retired advertising executive noted, the PSA really pulls the audience in with the juxtaposition of fun, frolic, and pretty girls. The suddenness of the accident serves up the message in a powerful in-your-face manner AND it represents a real situation (kids drinking and partying down).
  • One guy thought the girls were too pretty making the Don’t Wreck Your Summer PSA unrealistic. He suggested a retake with real life people in a more realistic setting.
  • Some would like too see simliar PSAs on bow riding and life jackets.
  • Some pointed out it takes some “shock value” to reach the “20 somethings” and traditional PSA won’t.

Some Thoughts From the Propeller Guard Information Center

  1. If Phil Keeter and the MRAA are so hot on increasing wear rates and reducing alcohol consumption, why do they oppose mandatory wear laws and banning the on board consumption of alcohol on small vessels?
  2. USCG has spent tens of millions of dollars on all sorts of efforts to increase life jacket wear rates. Even after the advent of easy to wear inflatable PFDs, adult life jacket wear rates are still dismal (near 5 percent on open motor boats). Throwing millions more down that rathole or creating an eye catching propeller safety PSA is a no brainer.
  3. Many organizations make a living off the annual USCG funding toward increasing PFD wear rates. Several of the programs are grants (free money). For example, in the 2009 grants, the National Safe Boating Council won a $650,000 grant for operating their “Wear It!” program, BoatUS won $400,000 for implementing Wear Rate Strategies for Anglers, National Safe Boating Council won $120,000 for Inflatable Life Jacket Education Programs, JSRI Research & Training Institute won $528,000 for conducting a national wear rate survey, National Water Safety Congress won $19,954 for Life Jacket Wear Rate Study Data Validation, and several other groups won boating safety grants that at least partially focus on encouraging boaters to wear life jackets. Similar awards have been made for many years. Lots of peoples salaries are hanging in the balance.
  4. In USCG’s 2009 Wear Rate Study, adult wear rates in open motorboats was 4.9 percent. That represented a DECREASE from the observed wear rate of 5.2 percent in 2008.
  5. I attended the National Boating Safety Council (USCG’s advisory board) April 2009 meeting in Orlando Florida. Near the conclusion of that meeting, they were voting on Resolution Number 2009-83-01 which included a goal to increase PFD wear rates by 3 percent. I stood up and asked if the goal was to increase them from about the current about 5 percent up to about 8 percent, or if they were only talking about three percent of 5 percent (increasing wear rates to about 5.15. percent). The Chairman said they were not sure. He said they just needed to vote on it and the technical language would be decided later from the reference materials. The final printed resolution showed a 2006 target of 4.5 percent, a 2007 target of 4.63 percent, and said they wanted to keep increasing it by 3 percent per year, meaning their big goal turned out to be increasing the wear rate by about .15 percent (less than two tenths of one percent). To witness the entire Council voting when no one understood which goal they were voting on (about 5.15 percent or about 8 percent) was bizarre. Plus, we suspect a .15 percent improvement would not be measurable by their wear rate study. The wear rate study contains no mention of confidence intervals / error percentages.
  6. At that same NBSAC Meeting (April 2009), we spent much of one day talking about life jackets, then adjourned to a field demonstration at the cable water skiing operation near the Orlando Airport. During a demonstration of wake skiing, the first several loads of NBSAC members that went out in the ski boat with the wake skier behind it did not put on life jackets. Considerable scolding was targeted at them during the meeting the following day, none of which made it into the minutes. If the organization pushing for increased life jacket wear rates, listens to life jacket discussions for several hours, then goes straight to the water and fails to use PFDs themselves, there is little hope for others.
  7. I personally know some of the leaders in the various organizations receiving USCG boating safety grants to promote wearing life jackets. They are very good people, and diligently working to make boating safer. Their efforts to improve wear rates are just not working. We suspect the only thing that is going to shake the tree is mandatory use. Seat belt laws tremendously boosted seat belt wear rates . The industry resists mandatory use, so wear rates are stalled, the end. Lets move on to spending some money on Propeller Safety PSAs.
  8. Upon release of the USCG Propeller Safety PSA, we embedded the code on our home page to play the PSA directly from our site, then shared those instructions with SPIN who then shared the instructions for embedding the code with the U.S. Coast Guard, encouraging them to have their partners do the same (embed the code). An online search in mid October 2010 was unable to find a single one of USCG’s boating safety partners hosting the video on their sites or even linking to the video. Since then, we have only observed NSABLA and a few local organizations posting the video.
  9. We suspect major high profile boating fatality accidents are far worse on regional sales for a period of time than any PSA ever could be.
  10. The industry often uses intoxication and inattentiveness as their defense in propeller injury cases. The next time they raise those defenses in court, they better be prepared to explain why they banned a PSA that targeted those behaviors. Selling their explanation is going to be harder the closer the accident resembles “Don’t Wreck Your Summer”.
  11. In defense of USCG, we know its a lot easier to sit back where we are and throw rocks at them for pulling down the PSA than it would be to be in their shoes having to make the choice between these two options:
    • Stick to their guns and take the heat including possible loss of jobs and funding from congressional pressure the industry is able to bring to bear on them
    • Drop the PSA and keep chummy with the industry and their legislators.
  • We have previously pointed out the similarities between tractor power take off (PTO) accidents and propeller accidents (rotating PTO shaft pulls victims in, sometimes guards have been removed). If the industry thinks Don’t Wreck Your Summer is a little scary, they might want to view this tractor PTO PSA. Do they think it hurt tractor sales?
  • Yes, we strongly support increased life jacket wear rates and decreased boating under the influence of alcohol. They are the two “elephants in the room” with tremendous potential for decreasing boating fatalities.

They should never have been placed in that position. The boating industry should be supporting safety efforts, not banning them.

It would be interesting to see an alliance of trade organization representing other outdoor recreational activities (like golfing, surfing, bike riding, kayaking, motorcycling, RVing, etc.) flood the airwaves in major boating areas with the PSA, then close it with, “The boating industry banned this U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Announcement because they are more concerned with profits than your safety. Maybe its time you tried some of our activities while you still can?”

Comments

If you have any comments about our discussion of the USCG Don’t Wreck Your Summer Propeller Safety PSA please contact us.

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