In 2005 the tour boat Ethan Allen overturned on Lake George in New York causing 20 people to lose their lives. This tragedy spurred the government into a new regulation mandating life saving equipment that keeps the victims out of the water.
As of January 1, 2015 life floats like the one shown will no longer be allowed. [12/14/2012: the 1/1/15 deadline has been postponed, read our post from December 14th]
There are still lawsuits pending and it seems that one claiming damages against government inspectors has just been ruled on. Reading the comment from the National Transportation Safety Board it makes one realize that the government is not actively out there ensuring that vessels are safe for their passengers and crew. Budgets are strained and people’s lives have suffered.