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Governor signs law requiring power boat operators to take safety classes

Posted 7 August 2019 at 8:22 am

Press Release, Governor Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.5685/A.4853.A) – or Brianna’s Law – to phase in requirements that all operators of motorized watercraft must complete a state-approved boating safety course.

Brianna’s Law is named after Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old Long Island girl who was killed in a 2005 boating accident. The Governor also directed State Parks to launch a boating safety promotional campaign to remind boaters of the new requirement to take a safety course.

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, kayaks, standup paddleboards, rowboats or canoes.

“Boating has become much more popular and our rules and our laws really have not kept pace with it,” Governor Cuomo said. “There should be a basic level of knowledge that you have before you’re given the permission to go out there and operate a boat, and making a safety course mandatory is common sense. It protects the operator of the boat and everyone that operator could come into contact with, and it will make our waters safer. It took a horrific accident to make this situation real for people, but through this law Brianna is saving lives and her love lives on.”

The measure expands an earlier law signed by Governor Cuomo that requires boaters born after May 1, 1996 to complete a safety course before operating a motorized watercraft. 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 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.

The law allows for the continued acceptance of State Parks approved internet-based learning and certification to meet this 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.

Governor Cuomo also directed State Parks to launch a boating safety promotional campaign to ensure that boaters are aware of the new requirement to take a course online or in person and to promote safety on our waterways, including radio and social media advertisements; distribution of informational materials to law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, marinas, boating education instructors and boating safety partners; and State Parks website updates.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “New York State offers some of the best boating and fishing adventures in the country. The best way to enjoy these adventures is to do so safely. It makes sense that for every boater to learn the basics of boating safety before operating a motor boat.”

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