October 6, 2013

Editorial: Boater-safety law goes too far

New York state is a little over-zealous in making anyone who wants to operate a motor boat pass an eight-hour safety course.

Boating safety is largely a matter of common sense. Veteran boaters aren’t going to profit much from enforced attendance at eight hours worth of sessions to remind them to keep their mind on what they’re doing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed new legislation that would require the operators of all powered boats to pass an eight-hour safety course. The law takes effect May 1, 2014, and comes in the aftermath of fatal boating accidents last year on Long Island and upstate.

The law will be put into effect over a period of years. It will initially cover anyone 18 or younger, while older boaters would be exempt. First-time violators would face fines of $100 to $250.

Certificates can be obtained and the safety course completed with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, U.S. Power Squadrons or the U.S. Coast Guard.

It remains to be seen whether all of the thousands of boaters who must take a course and all the certificates that will have to be issued can be distributed before the start of next boating season or the one after that, but that responsibility will fall to boaters — many of whom would probably be qualified to teach such a curriculum.

Previous state law required only operators of a personal watercraft to have a boating-safety certificate, or be accompanied by someone older than 18 years who is the holder of a safety certificate.

Now, the law presumes that even someone older than 18 is unqualified to drive a boat unless the safety course is completed.

In many areas, we would applaud the state taking steps to enhance the public safety of an endeavor. But, in the case of driving a boat, we wonder why eight hours of class is needed to teach adults — the vast majority of whom are responsible operators — how to drive a boat.

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