Coast Guard officers were using cell phones during a deadly collision between their vessel and a pleasure boat last December, prompting federal accident investigators to call for tighter controls over distracted boating.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the accident Dec. 20 in San Diego was one of two recent incidents involving the Coast Guard in which officers were talking or texting on wireless devices when they struck other boats.
The NTSB, which has no regulatory power, urged the Coast Guard to tighten restrictions on cell phone use by its officers. It also asked the Coast Guard to issue a broad safety advisory to the entire maritime industry warning of the risks from cell phones, according to a report in USA Today.
"It makes total sense," said Chris Edmonston, director of boating safety at the BoatU.S. Foundation, a nonprofit group representing recreational boaters.
Of 4,730 reported boating accidents last year, 1,084 - or more than one in five - involved either "operator inattention" or "improper lookout," according to Coast Guard statistics. That broad category is by far the biggest cause of boating accidents.