Reporter Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times has discovered that the location and date of boat accidents is considered confidential information by the California Department of Boating and Waterways. Peele wanted to analyze the data as part of an investigation into boating safety. The state agency says it is exempt from open records laws. Tom Newton, general counsel to the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association, called the agency’s position “absolutely asinine … A boating accident is a public event. Taxpayer funds go to investigate it. There is noting private about it,” Newton said. Sgt. Will Duke of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit said that telling the public where boating accidents occur might lead boaters to slow down and drive more responsibly. Cary Smith, president of the California Boating Safety Officers Association, also agreed the information should be useful. Smith pointed out, however, that the state boating and waterways department is funded through boat registrations and disclosing accident locations might be bad for the boating business.

SF Press Club News

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