California is second in the nation when it comes to boating accidents, just behind Florida, and yet California is one of only five states that do not require that a person have any kind of formal training before operating a boat.
With the busy boating season upon us, there are some in the California Legislature who are seeking to end that. Current California boating law only requires that a boater be 16 years of age to operate a boat in the state. Surprisingly, a child as young as age 12 can legally operate a boat if accompanied by an adult.
There were two previous legislative attempts in 1999 and 2007 to implement some kind of required training for boaters, but they both failed. Senate Bill 941 is yet another attempt to make California’s waterways safer. The California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee voted 7-1 in favor of the required safety training legislation.
In 2012, the number one cause of boating accidents in California was operator inattention (168 accidents), followed by operator inexperience (103 accidents), and then excessive speed (101 accidents). Relatively speaking, boating accidents caused by alcohol use was fairly low (13 accidents).
Given the high rate of accidents caused by operator inattention and inexperience, it is surprising that California has no law on the books that require a person to take and pass a boating safety course before getting on the water.
Karen Wilson testified before the committee and said she believed that required operator vessel training would have saved her daughter’s life. Her daughter was killed in 2002 in Clearlake when a boat ran her over while she was in the water.
“It can get crazy if people don’t know what they are doing and accelerate the boat,” she told the senate committee.
According to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, states that require boater education have a lower rate of fatal accidents than states with no requirements. This latest bill has received support from the California State Sheriff’s Association, Recreational Boaters of California, and the California Yacht Brokers Association. So far, there have been no groups that formally oppose the bill.
The Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers in San Diego wholeheartedly supports any action that will make boating safer in California. If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident caused by an inattentive or inexperienced boater, call us at (888) 233-5020 or contact us online to discuss your legal rights.