New York law requires boating safety course

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Friday requiring powerboat operators to pass a safety course, but some advocates are already working to get a tougher law passed next year.

The law, passed in light of several well-publicized fatal accidents in the United States last year, will require people 18 and younger to pass a boater safety course, starting in May. Critics say it will be decades before the requirement covers all powerboaters, according to Newsday.

The legislature passed the law in June, nearly a year after an accident that drew national attention: the drowning of three children in Oyster Bay on the night of July Fourth in 2012 when a cabin cruiser capsized.

Paul Gaines, whose daughter Victoria died in that accident, told Newsday that the law is "a very small step in the right direction."

"It's a shame that our neighboring states have much more comprehensive laws," he said.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci of Rockland County and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef of Westchester, both Democrats. It requires operators born on or after May 1, 1996, to have a certificate showing completion of a course. First-time violators will face fines ranging from $100 to $250.

The state law supersedes a tougher measure Suffolk County approved last fall that would have taken effect Nov. 1. It required powerboat operators of any age to have taken a safety course. New York is the 21st state to make boater safety training mandatory. Seven states, including Connecticut and New Jersey, have similar but more stringent laws.

Galef said she would like to see all boaters required to take a safety course, but noted that when New Jersey did so, requiring all boaters to take a course immediately, "the process didn't work" because there were not enough people to teach the classes.

Republican state Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., whose tougher mandatory education bill stalled in Albany, said he might try again next year to require anyone who buys a boat in the future, regardless of age, to take a safety course.

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