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Virginia investigators studying boat collisions

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Virginia authorities are crashing boats – on purpose.

The collisions are part of an effort to learn more about how recreational boat collisions happen and how to prevent them, the AP reported.

"It gives officers a chance to see it, because very few times do police officers have the opportunity to witness a traffic crash, let alone a boat collision," Jim Getz, a coordinator for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, told the AP.

The controlled collisions happened in September on an isolated part of the James River near Richmond. The collisions were recorded and photographed, with materials to be disseminated across the country.

Recreational boat accidents are an ever-present danger in Hampton Roads, and I support any efforts to make boating safer. In May, my colleague David Hurt wrote about a boat capsizing near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, an incident that left one man dead and another injured.

And my colleague Emily Mapp Brannon wrote less than a month ago that boating accidents were steeply rising throughout Virginia.

In 2008, 709 people died in recreational boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Of those 709, 60 were killed in collisions. Another 856 people were hurt in collisions.

In the latest project, 12 pairs of boats were crashed into each other. All were donated and were crashed by remote control.

"It is a complex, very dynamic event, and the only way to fully understand it is to study actual collisions, where you know what actually happened and can carefully examine the aftermath," accident investigator and consultant Miles Beam told the AP.

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