N.Y. Gov. Signs Legislation to Increase Boater Safety; Operators Must be at Least 14 Years Old

July 29, 2005

New York Gov. George Pataki has signed into law legislation that will reportedly increase safety on New York’s waterways by increasing the minimum age of those allowed to operate personal watercraft (PWCs) to 14 years old.

Current law requires any person between the ages 10 and 18 to possess a boating safety certificate to operate any mechanically powered vessel, including PWCs, meaning that operators as young as 10 years old are allowed to operate these vessels.

“New York State has been blessed with a wide variety of spectacular waterways that are a popular destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts and we are committed to making sure that everyone who enjoys the water has a safe and pleasurable experience,” Gov. Pataki said. “Last year’s boating season was the second safest on record, and the new law that I am signing today is another step we are taking to make New York’s waterways as safe as they possibly can be.”

Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington said, “This law is long overdue. New York is currently one of only three states that allow children to operate personal watercrafts at age 10 without any supervision of an adult. Today’s personal watercrafts are bigger, faster, and more powerful than ever before. Increasing the operating age from 10 to 14 is a common-sense measure that will improve water safety for our families.”

Steve Levy, Suffolk County executive added, “This new law is a very important step in efforts to lessen the risk of injury for all those who avail themselves of our world class waterways. The changing nature of PWC’s requires proactive steps to ensure the safety of those operating them and those in proximity to their operation. We thank the Governor for signing this bill into law.”

The bill signed into law by the Governor will restrict personal watercraft operation to those persons 14 years of age or older. Operators will still be required to possess a boating safety certificate.

In many cases, youngsters reportedly lack the physical height and strength needed to properly handle a PWC. PWCs have quickly evolved into larger and heavier watercraft. Today’s PWCs can be as long as 12 feet in length, equipped with engines of up to 1500ccs and capable of reaching speeds up to 60 mph.

These engine sizes are now comparable to those found on larger motorcycles. These factors make them particularly difficult for youngsters to safely operate on the State’s waterways.

According to the New York State 2004 Recreational Boating Report, in 2004 there was a dramatic reduction in fatalities, injuries and boating accidents from the previous year. Fatalities dropped 47% from 34 to 18; injuries decreased from 132 to 93 and the number of accidents dropped by a third from 303 to 204. These figures represent the second safest season since such statistics have been kept.

New York ranks 7th in the country for total number of registered boats with more than 520,000 motorized vessels and the state’s fatality rate for registered boaters is below the national average.

The new law will take effect Jan. 1, 2006.

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