[Editor’s Note: The following is a guest editorial provided by California’s Division of Boating and Waterways.]
SACRAMENTO—By now you’ve probably heard about the California Boater Card if you operate a motorized vessel on California’s waterways. Whether you enjoy boating on California’s iconic coastline or an equally majestic inland waterway, as of Jan. 1, 2020, all persons 35 years of age or younger are now required to carry a California Boater Card when operating a motorized vessel.
The program is being phased in by age to give boaters ample time to obtain their card. By 2025, all operators of motorized vessels on California waters will be required to obtain a California Boater Card. The California Boater Card is verification that its holder has successfully taken and passed an approved boating safety course.
Boating accident data from the U.S. Coast Guard verifies that states with some form of boating safety education have fewer accidents and fatalities than states without any boater education requirements. California is one of the last states to implement mandatory boater education with only four states remaining that have no education requirement. The cost of the lifetime California Boater Card is $10. No profit is made from the card as the cost goes towards processing the card itself.
California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) maintains the list of approved safe boating courses which includes classroom, online and home study options.
Applying for the California Boater Card is an easy, two-step process: pass an approved boating safety course; and, apply for the card and provide proof of passing an approved course.
Boaters have an option to apply for the card before or after passing an approved course. Once DBW has received your application, proof of education and payment, you will receive a 90-day temporary boater card by email. You will then receive your official California Boater Card by mail within 60 days.
Violation of the new law is considered an infraction. Those stopped by law enforcement must present a valid California Boater Card or they will be cited. The initial conviction will be a fine of not more than $100, second conviction is a fine of not more than $250, and a third or subsequent conviction is a fine of not more than $500. In addition to the fines imposed, the boater will be required to complete and pass an approved boating safety course and provide proof of completion to the court.
Gov. Edmund Brown, Jr. signed into law Senate Bill 941 on Sept. 18, 2014, which prohibits the operation of motorized vessels on California waterways without a valid California Boater Card developed and issued by California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW).
To find out more about the approved courses, the phase-in schedule, or to apply for your California Boater Card, please visit www.CaliforniaBoaterCard.com. A toll-free telephone support line is also available at 844-421-8333.