Boater safety education will be mandatory in California at the beginning of 2018.
STATEWIDE ― Stating the obvious: a license is mandatory to drive a vehicle on our roads or fish in our waters. However boaters in California were never required to carry a license to operate a motorized recreational vessel. However the law is changing as California rolls out mandatory boater safety education starting in less than nine months.
The first demographic required to carry the state-mandated California Boater Card by Jan. 1, 2018 are those boaters between the age of 16 and 20 years old. At the start of each year after that, another age group will be required to carry the card.
All boaters will be able to sign up for a California Boater Card once the mandate takes effect. While boat operators 20 years old or younger must possess valid proof of education as of Jan. 1, 2018, any older person has the option to meet the state’s licensing requirements at the same time. There is no need to wait until a specific age group is required to possess a Boater Education Card.
All boat operators in California, regardless of age, will be required to carry a California Boater Card by 2025.
The complete rollout scheduled for required boater cards based on age is available online at californiaboatercard.com/about-the-card.
In order to acquire this card, boaters will need to enroll in an approved boater safety course and pass an exam.
Whether enrolling online or in a class, the course must be approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASLBA) and the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW). To find a NASLBA and DBW approved course, boaters can go online at californiaboatercard.com/courses.
“Boaters can take the course now and keep a copy of their certificate and when DBW starts issuing cards, [boaters] can go online and apply for their card,” Greg Imura of California State Parks stated. “We will be grandfathering in those boaters who have taken and passed a NASBLA and CA approved course in the last 3 years dated January 1, 2015-December 31, 2017 from the approved course vendors.”
The cost of the California Boater Card is expected to be no more than $10 with a replacement fee, if lost, of no more than $5. The card is good for a lifetime.
If a boat is stopped by harbor patrol for a certain reason, a harbor patrol officer may ask to see the California Boater Card.
“Every peace officer of this state …shall have the authority to stop and board any vessel subject to this chapter, where the peace officer has probable cause to believe that a violation of state law or regulations or local ordinance exists,” as stated in the Harbor and Navigation Code (Section 663).
If a person operating a motorized boat on California waterways does not have a California Boater Card when required, the boater is in violation of an infraction.
Those convicted of a first infraction are subject up to a $100 fine, up to a $250 fine on the second conviction and up to a $500 fine for a third and any further convictions. “In addition to the fines imposed…the court shall order a person convicted of violating this article to complete and pass a boating safety course approved by the division pursuant to Section 668.3,” as stated in Harbors and Navigation Code Section 678.15.
California law currently prohibits any person 16-years-old or younger to drive a boat with a few exceptions.
No one under the age of 16 years is allowed to operate a boat with more than a 15 horsepower engine under California law “except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore (or between two moored boats). The law allows children 12-15 years of age to operate boats with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or sailboats over 30 feet if supervised on board by an adult at least 18 years of age,” the California Boater Card website states.
California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) will be issuing the card to those who qualify and plan to do so prior to Jan. 1, 2018.
There is not an exact date of when boaters can obtain the card prior to Jan. 1, 2018. However, DBW will begin testing the database in September and start issuing California Boater Cards to qualified boaters in the fall of this year, according to California State Parks staff.
Boater safety education is for the benefit of everyone on the water, and boaters can enroll now in a mandatory boater safety class.
A study done in 2015 found “724 California recreational vessels were involved in reported accidents and 49 boaters died,” as stated on the California Boater Card website. “Only one of the boat operators involved in fatal accidents had taken an approved boating safety course.”
Senate Bill 941 requiring boater safety education was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014.
As the Tesla song goes “signs, signs, everywhere signs,” soon there may be signs at a dock or launch ramp near you stating “California Boater Card required to navigate waterway.”