Mandatory Boater Education: The Devil is in the Details

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Who isn't in favor of having more knowledgeable, better informed boaters on the water? To oppose that is a little like being against motherhood, apple pie and the American flag. But California is now approaching an important cross-roads for future recreational boating.

The machinery is already in motion to pen new statewide legislation that would enact mandatory boater education. Although the proposed law is presently in very rough draft form and still seeking a sponsor to champion the cause through the state legislature, there's already concern among the Southern California marine trade community that a bureaucratic bungle must be avoided at all cost.

The Board of Directors of the Southern California Marine Association, one of the largest regional marine trade associations in the country, debated this issue and has decided to support the principal parts of the Boating Safety Law as communicated in a recent letter to California's Department of Boating and Waterways director, Raynor Tsuneyoshi, but reserves the option to take exception to individual items within the legislation as the process goes forward.

Among its primary concerns are the absence of details on how the actual mechanics of processing and administrating the mandatory education will take place. SCMA is apprehensive that the Department of Motor Vehicles will inherit these duties, creating an even greater governmental log-jam for an agency that's already far over-burdened.

If this occurs, it is estimated that nearly 4 million boaters will be forced to march through the doors of the DMV to endure endless lines and mountains of red-tape to take a written test in order to secure a boat operator's certificate, something highly counter-productive to our industry's current "Grow Boating Initiative."

Safer boating is something we all want, but is passing a multiple choice written test our wisest and most cost effective means to this end? Have other states with mandatory boating education laws experienced significant declines in boating accident and fatality statistics? Or are there other better options like increasing on-water law enforcement and encouraging more aggressive industry-sponsored education programs?

Dave Geoffroy
SCMA Executive Director

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