Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Staying Safe on the Staten Island Ferry

Last Saturday dozens of people were hurt when the Staten Island Ferry's brakes stopped working and it barreled into the dock on the Staten Island side at a reported 5 knots (though it was probably going faster). On impact, the many people who were standing by the exit of the ferry or on the stairs leading to the exit were almost certainly thrown to the ground, though apparently a number of people who saw what was about to happen also got hurt bumping into obstructions as they tried to run away from the front of the boat.

Although the accidents on the Ferry are rare, it surprises me that one simple precaution is not taken. If everyone were politely asked to remain seated until the boat is docked, I think the potential for future injuries would be greatly reduced. I have now been riding the Ferry for 2 years, much to my amazement, and I can recall early on how alarmed I was about the number of standees who congregate at the front of the boat as it nears the shore, and especially how little care is taken in keeping passengers off the stairs just before docking. There are signs that warn people to be careful about taking the stairs during docking, but I don't think I have ever seen anyone actually asked to stay off the stairs.

Seems simple enough. But these habits die hard. And it is fun to stand on the bow of the boat as the shore gets progressively closer. I just wish we could count on this always being a safe thing to do. Because occasionally it clearly is not.

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