A new state law taking effect in 2025 will require everyone operating a boat with a motor to complete a boating safety course.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week signed legislation expanding an earlier law that required teenagers to take a boating safety course. The requirement first applied to boaters born after May 1, 1996. The new law phases-in higher ages until it applies to everyone beginning in 2025.
Under the phase-in, all motor boat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1993 must complete a safety course to operate a motor boat beginning in 2020. Those born after Jan. 1, 1988 must complete a safety course beginning in 2022. Those born on or after Jan. 1, 1983 must complete a safety course beginning in 2023. Those born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 must complete a safety course beginning in 2024.
The requirement would extend to all motor boat operators beginning in 2025, regardless of age. Failure to comply could result in a fine of between $100 and $250 under the new law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
The law is called Brianna’s Law, after Brianna Lieneck, who died in a Long Island boating accident in 2005.
The course covers topics such as basic boating terminology, types of personal flotation devices and aids, the rules for encountering other watercraft, the meaning of various buoys and symbols on waterways, lighting and boating at night, what to do in emergencies, and the effects of cold water on people who fall overboard.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which administers the law, estimates that there are nearly one million boaters who will have to take the safety courses before the end of the phase-in on Jan. 1, 2025.
New York state also recognizes the safety certificates issued by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the US Power Squadron and the US Powerboating.
The law allows for the continued acceptance of State Parks-approved internet-based learning and certification to meet the new demand. Classroom courses will also continue to be available. Information about both internet and in-classroom courses can be found on the state parks’ website at www.parks.ny.gov/recreation/boating/education.aspx. The site also includes a link to an electronic version of the state safe boating textbook.
There are nearly 439,000 registered powerboats in the state, according to the 2018 state Recreational Boating Report.
The law does not apply to operators of sailboats without motors, kayaks, standup paddleboards, rowboats or canoes. People 18 and older renting a boat do not have to have taken a safety course provided the rental company demonstrates how to property use the boat; those under 18 must have a course certificate.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office offers boating safety classes each year, typically in the spring. Their usually first scheduled and publicized as early as February. While online courses can fulfill the state requirement, Sheriff Rob Maciol said he recommends an
in-person class because they’re taught by deputies assigned to the agency’s Marine Patrol who can field questions and offer personal experience. The eight-hour classes are free but a laminated certificate from New York State costs $10.
The law is usually enforced when marine patrol officers investigate an accident or incident or have a reason to stop a boat. Last summer, for example, Maciol said, when he accompanied the marine patrol, officers saw a party barge on Oneida Lake with several children without life jackets and stopped them, offering loaner PFDs so the group could continue their day, and issuing a ticket.