Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, is now legally required to complete a boater education course before operating any vessel on Georgia waterways.
Department of Natural Resources Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant director of law enforcement for the GDNR, said he hopes the new education requirement will make Georgia waterways safer.
“In an effort to provide a mechanism for ensuring that Georgia boaters are knowledgeable, boaters will be required to complete a boating education course,” Weaver said. “Tragedy can happen quickly and making an effort to learn boating laws, rules and regulations can potentially save a life — including your own.”
Georgia has laws setting the minimum age for operating a vessel on state waterways at 12 years old, and the 100-foot law, which dictates one aspect of boat safety on the water.
But despite laws regulating some aspects of boating in the state, the DNR still recorded more than a dozen fatalities and nearly 60 injuries on waterways statewide in 2013.
On Lake Allatoona in 2013, the DNR reported 10 injuries, two fatalities and one drowning, along with 11 cases of people operating a boat while intoxicated, based on figures from DNR spokeswoman Melissa Cummings.
DNR spokesman Mark McKinnon said the new education requirement, which went into effect on June 1, will help future boat operators make safe choices.
“What do you know about life jacket safety, the 100-foot law, minimum age limits for boat operators (or) boating under the influence? These are just a few examples of things you should know before operating a vessel on public waters,” McKinnon added in a news release.
McKinnon said there are a few exemptions for the new law.
“A person is exempt if he or she is: a person licensed by the Coast Guard as a master of a vessel; a person operating on a private pond or lake; (or) a non-resident who has in his or her possession proof that he or she has completed a NASBLA-approved boater education course or equivalency examination from another state,” McKinnon explained.
To comply with the law, boat operators born on or after the cutoff date will have to complete a boater education course approved by the Department of Natural Resources before operating a water vessel.
Courses can be taken in a classroom, online or through a home study program, McKinnon said.
For more information on the mandatory boater education, a list of approved courses and an informational video, visit the DNR website at http://www.gadnrle.org/node/42.