Technically, in the USA it is Congress or State legislatures that make the laws -- but they tend to listen to the Coast Guard's recommendations, so if the Coast Guard decides to seek a law, it has a decent chance of passing in Congress or being adopted by the states. One potential problem with boating safety
laws is that sailors are a minority and may not be consulted by the law-writers, resulting in laws that are a poor fit.
If search efforts are required, drowning is far and away not cheap
a dear friend a little more than a year ago last May as we were preparing for a regatta
on an inland lake. It was unclear whether a heart attack contributed to his falling off the boat or followed upon it, but he fell off while holding onto a 12" plastic buoy. His grip failed and his body disappeared under the water
within perhaps a minute or less while people were trying to rescue
him, including a young adult swimming to him with a float (too far to throw from a boat anchored about 100 feet from where our friend fell overboard). Several boats were nearby and immediately tried to help. We were about a thousand feet away when our friend had gone overboard
and were part of search efforts on that and subsequent days.
The initial search effort involved boats from the sailing club, state park rangers, and US CG auxiliary, who all reached the scene quickly. Later, state dive team members attempted to search for our friend's body, but were hampered by 50- to 120-foot depths, frequent high winds, and turbidity.
Despite extensive searching, it took 21 days before the process of decomposition proceeded far enough in the cold water to allow our friend's body to rise and be recovered. Twenty-one days of agony for his wife/widow, of her trying to get search efforts extended, of frustrations and dashed hopes with the limitations of the search process. 21 days of gradually withering hopes.
Finally, the body came up, about a mile from the site of the drowning. Fortunately, the cold lake water had partially preserved the body so it wasn't too gruesome for the park rangers and people who had to deal with the body.
Our loss has had effects that remain, even more than a year later. They are not trivial and have impacted many.
PS. A few days after the drowning, the victim's skipper
, my wife, and the marina manager opened the our friend's seabag. Inside was a deluxe inflatable PFD
, nearly new. Unworn, it hadn't exactly had a chance to keep our friend afloat and give people a chance to rescue
him. Our friend who died was an extremely intelligent, educated, and experienced middle-aged professional, and not some impulsive kid with bad judgement. He made a costly decision that at the very least resulted in his body disappearing beneath the waves for three weeks, and at worst cost him his life... and his widow and others also paid part of the price