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Duck Boat Accidents Prompt New Legislation in Boston

Published in Pedestrian Safety, Personal Injury on September 27, 2016

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Citizens of the Boston area are likely familiar with “duck boats,” amphibious vehicles that ferry tourists around the seaside city. Duck boats are actually decommissioned war vehicles from the World War II era that the city re-purposed for tourism. Duck boats are common in several American cities and, unfortunately, have been the cause of dozens of deaths to both tourists and locals.

Many legal professionals have called for a ban on duck boats, citing that war machines are not suitable tourist attractions, and the nature of these “tourcrafts” makes them a much greater hazard than other vehicles. Some have cited duck boats as the cause of several deaths, including the recent death of a young woman in Boston, a pedestrian in Philadelphia who was killed in 2015, and a serious accident in 2015 in Seattle that left four dead and eight seriously injured after a duck boat crashed into the side of a bus on the Aurora Bridge.

History of the Duck Boat

In April 1940, the manufacturer, GMC, started development of the DUKW353, a six-wheeled amphibious carrier truck for the U.S. Army to conduct waterborne assaults. Its serial letters “DUKW” quickly earned it the nickname “Duck” and production boomed to provide these vehicles to soldiers fighting in the European theater of World War II. The U.S. used the DUKWs extensively in Europe during the war, including during Britain’s invasion of Italy and in the South Pacific theater of operations against the former Empire of Japan at Saipan, Tarawa, Hollandia, and other beaches.

The military loaded these massive trucks with troops and equipment, and used them in the first assaults from New Guinea to Normandy. After dropping troops off on a beach, the vehicles would continue to ferry equipment and reinforcements from large offshore ships to the beach, making them invaluable assets for assaulting land regions from the sea.

During its time, the DUKW had a very unique feature: the driver could deflate and re-inflate the central tires from the cockpit. Less air in these tires made the vehicle more buoyant, aiding in water travel. The DUKW was invaluable for crossing waterways where Axis troops had destroyed bridges, allowing the Allies to pursue the Nazi army eastward more effectively.

After World War II, the military abandoned many of these vehicles in various locations around the world. After a while, collectors and private companies started buying them. Over time, they became popular for use as touring vehicles.

New Massachusetts Duck Boat Laws

Duck boat drivers in Boston undergo a rigorous training course and must maintain several official certifications and licenses to ensure the safety of their passengers. Despite these numerous requirements, there have still been several fatal accidents involving duck boats. Recently, the Massachusetts State Senate passed new legislation for tighter regulations for duck boat companies.

After 28-year-old Allison Warmuth was killed by a duck boat while driving her scooter in Boston Common, the Massachusetts Senate approved a new bill for duck boats. Boston Duck Tours, the company that owns the duck boat that struck and killed Ms. Warmuth, has announced that they will now staff their duck boats with two employees: one driver and one tour guide. Previously, the driver would use an intercom system to relay tour information to patrons on the duck boat, but the latest duck boat fatality has spurred them into rethinking their tour structure.

The new changes, both from duck boat companies and lawmakers, indicate there is far more public awareness and concern over these vehicles. Many argue that vehicles previously used for war have no business on city streets, and they should not be used for tourism due to their inherent dangers.

While it’s uncertain whether or not the duck boat tourism industry will carry on or for how long, it’s clear that these vehicles do indeed possess some inherent risks that require careful scrutiny to ensure they aren’t an imminent threat to locals or tourists. If you or a loved one have been injured by a duck boat in Boston, contact our team of personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.

For more information, call our law office at (617)-391-9001. Or if you would prefer to email us, then please visit our contact page.

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