A bill to require an individual to pass a boating education examination and obtain a vessel operator card from the Division of Boating and Waterways in order to operate a boat in California passed the Senate yesterday.
SB 941, by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), will require the Division of Boating and Waterways to develop a vessel operator card and issue it to individuals who provide proof that they have passed an approved examination. Beginning on January 1, 2018, the requirement to possess a Division vessel operator card will apply to operators 20 years of age or younger with a staggered implementation date depending on the age of the individual until it eventually applies to everyone in 2025.
“National statistics show that requiring first time boaters to pass a safety exam will save lives and decrease boating accidents,” Senator DeSaulnier said. “As someone who represents the Delta, one of the most traveled waterways in the state, I know that California cannot afford to continue to lag behind the rest of the nation when it comes to boater safety requirements. SB 941 will make the Delta and all of California’s incredible waterways safer for all.”
California is one of five states that do not require individuals to take a boating safety course before operating a vessel. Senator Monning introduced the legislation after hearing from constituents that have been involved in accidents due to unsafe boaters that did not have the proper knowledge to operate a vessel.
Similar legislation has been proven to save lives. In 1993, Connecticut enacted legislation that required mandatory boating education and since then the state’s fatality rate fell by 56% and the state’s accident rate fell by 18%.