Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Know Mimimum Age Requirements Before Operating a Vessel

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources reminds boaters under the age of 16 that there is a minimum age requirement to operate a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) on public lakes and waterways. Young boaters can satisfy the minimum age requirements of this law by taking a boating safety course or by operating a boat under the supervision or in the accompaniment of an adult. The DNR encourages adults to NEVER leave young children unattended on vessels.

“Minimum age requirements are a necessity for the safety of the operator of the vessel as well as everyone else on the water,” says Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, DNR assistant chief of Law Enforcement. “Just like the privilege of driving a car, young people should take the operation of a personal watercraft or other vessel very seriously and realize that they can avoid a serious incident by educating themselves about boating safety.”

Minimum boat operator age requirements are based on the age of the boat operator and the size of the vessel. For a complete listing of what ages can legally operate what type of vessel, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com and select “Boating,” “Boating Regulations” and then “Who can operate a boat?” or contact a DNR Law Enforcement office.

In Georgia, there are three ways young boat operators can take a boating safety course to satisfy the requirements of the minimum age law. The classroom course is a free, six-hour class taught by conservation rangers and volunteers that covers the basics of boating. Boat operators can go to www.goboatgeorgia.com to find a classroom location or an Internet boating safety course. Another option for boat operators is the home study course. Boaters can receive a “Boat Georgia” manual and a boating safety video by ordering it on the Internet at www.boat-ed.com or by calling 1-800-460-9698 (the cost of the video boating course is $29.95).

In a recent analysis, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) revealed that over the past 10 years, a number of adults have left a child unattended on a vessel (specifically PWCs). This situation often resulted in the child starting the engine and taking off, leading to injury or even death of the child.

“Safety regarding children and boating cannot be emphasized often enough,” Weaver said. Being proactively safe is important. Weaver advises boat operators to:

- NEVER leave a young child unattended on a vessel in the water.

- Always remove the lanyard attached to the engine cut-off switch when the vessel is docked, beached or otherwise unattended.

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