Faced with a sink or swim situation this year as a result of America’s obesity epidemic, the U.S. Coast Guarded opted for another course of action to address the safety hazard of increasingly overweight boat passengers: recalculate safety formulas using heavier weights.
Like elevators and planes, boats operating within the U.S. are subject to safety codes that limit the amount of passenger weight they can carry, a capacity calculated using a number representing the average weight of a passenger. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security refers to this number as the Assumed Average Weight Per Person, or AAWPP.
If a vessel had a capacity of 3,000 pounds, for example, it would be illegal to carry more than 20 passengers- if the AAWPP were 150 pounds, that is.
The problem is that the weight of an average American is nowhere near 150 pounds, and hasn’t been for a very long time. When the U.S. Coast Guard determined the legal capacity for boats in 1960, it assumed that the average American weighed 160 pounds, the Palm Beach Post News reported.
Wising up to the reality of modern travelers’ weights, however, legislators amended federal guidelines for boat capacities by setting the average passenger weight number 185, a change that went into effect on Dec. 1.
Though the amendment will limit the number of passengers legally allowed to board ships, many boat owners and travelers are welcoming the change, especially in light of two tragic accidents caused as a result of boats being overcapacity, the Palm Beach News reported.
In 2004, a water taxi in Baltimore Harbor overturned from the burden of excess weight, even thought it was carrying a legal number of passengers. The same thing happened the next year to a monachal carrying elderly passengers across Lake George in New York.
In some cases, however, recalibrating assumed average weights isn't enough -- vehicles need more space, not fewer people, to accommodate the Girth of a Nation, as the Economists puts it.
Ambulance companies in Boston and Dallas have begun the process of overhauling their emergency vehicles to accommodate obese passengers as part of an expansion process costing between $7,000 to $12,000 per vehicle, NRP reported.
Sadly, the assumed averaged weights of children are increasingly behind adjusted as well. In 2002, a 50-pound 4-year-old named Anton Skeen died in a car crash when his seat belt failed, compelling watchdog organizations to ask whether crash test dummies used to simulate children during car safety procedures should be made to weigh more, the Washington Post reported.
Photo by Flickr user MyAngelG