If you’ve traveled around the United States, you’ve doubtless seen a duck boat designed for tourists in many of the nation’s cities that are adjacent to a large body of water.
A duck boat is an amphibious vehicle that is a wheeled bus while on land, but serves as a boat in water.
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A tragedy in Branson, Missouri last week in which a duck boat capsized and sank in a storm, killing 17 people, has put a new light on the vehicles.
Federal officials have warned tourists for nearly 20 years about the dangers posed by amphibious tour boats, which have spotty and sometimes contradictory safety regulations because they are neither entirely boat nor bus. Operators have lengthened some of the boats from their original designs and sometimes have added canopies and see-through vinyl “walls,” allowing them to operate in bad weather.
The Department of Transportation doesn’t regulate duck boats because they’re amphibious, and the Department of Public Safety doesn’t in this case because it’s a commercial vessel, as opposed to a recreational one. The Coast Guard is nominally in charge, but last week’s tragedy happened at a lake.
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