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Ohio law aims to enhance boating safety

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland last week signed legislation to enhance boating safety on state waterways.

The new law establishes “failure to control” as an enforceable boat operator rule. Many accidents occur as the result of operator inexperience or the forces of nature. These are not the result of a “rules of the road” violation or caused by reckless operation, but may result in minor property damage or injury.

The law also increases the horsepower limit on Pymatuning Lake in northeastern Ohio to 20-hp. About two-thirds of the lake is within the boundaries of Pennsylvania, which passed legislation to allow for the increase several years ago.

Also, the Ohio law creates a “no wake zone,” requiring boat operators to reduce their speed when passing a boat actively engaged in providing public service, including law enforcement, fireboats, search-and-rescue teams, dredges and towing services. This is similar to the law requiring motorists to proceed with caution and change lanes or slow down when approaching a stationary public safety vehicle displaying an emergency light.

Additionally, the law permits boaters to “slow tow” ski tubes and other towables in no-wake zones and areas outside of the designated speed and ski zones, and requires children under 10 years of age who board a watercraft under 18 feet in length to wear a swimsuit-style life jacket. The children’s Type V personal flotation device was approved by the U.S. Coast Guard several years ago and is designed to be more comfortable and better suited to the activities of children participating in family boating.

The law also allows for the transfer of electronic titles for outboard motors. This provision reduces the time it takes to transfer titles by preventing the need for a watercraft dealer to first issue a physical title.

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