State faces mandatory boater education proposal

SEATTLE, Wash. – Proposed legislation that would require a minimum level of boater training to operate a boat in Washington State is ready for introduction during the 2005 legislative session in January, according to an announcement yesterday from the Washington Alliance for Mandatory Boater Education (WAMBE). WAMBE is currently seeking sponsors for the new bill.

The proposed law, revised over the past nine months after its original form was introduced during the 2004 session, is patterned after similar legislation signed into law in Oregon and would require completion of a basic boating class or passage of an exam to obtain a state boater education card, according to WAMBE.

"Thirty-six states have some sort of educational requirements for operating a boat, but not Washington," commented Steve Greaves, chairman of the WAMBE group. "The card would not be a license. It would be obtained only once and would be good for life. The card would indicate that the boat operator has a basic level of boating safety knowledge."

Proposal breakdown

Like the Oregon law, the proposed Washington bill calls for a phase-in period for compliance. For example, boaters 30 years of age and younger would be required to obtain their card by January 1, 2010. All boaters would be required to comply by 2016, the group explained.

For the many thousands of Washington boaters who have already received a certificate of completion from a Coast Guard Auxiliary or U. S. Power Squadron boating safety class (or similar class), they need only supply a copy of their certificate along with a $10 administrative fee to receive their lifetime card under the proposed legislation, said WAMBE.

The bill would require the boater to carry the card when operating a boat of greater than 10 horsepower. Operators under 16 years of age may operate a boat provided they are under the supervision of an adult with a card. If passed, the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission's Boating Safety Program would administer the provisions of the law, WAMBE reported.

The WAMBE group was formed two years ago with its sole purpose to develop and pass a bill concerning mandatory boater education in Washington.

"With a majority of states already having mandatory boater education laws on the books, it is only a matter of time before it comes to Washington State," said Michael Campbell, president of the Northwest Marine Trade Association - one of the founding groups of the alliance. "We feel it's important to propose legislation that is fair to boaters, encourages safety on the water, and yet doesn't restrict access to boating."

WAMBE is comprised of representatives from a variety of boating related organizations. The alliance includes representatives of the boating industry, representatives of recreational boating groups, as well as government, law enforcement, and marine safety groups.

"We've tried to include representatives from all facets of the boating arena in WAMBE", commented David Kutz, secretary of WAMBE and president of the Recreational Boating Association of Washington. "The result has been a positive collaboration and a bill with broad support."

The complete bill and a summary of the bill's highlights are available on the WAMBE Web site: A complete listing of organizations that have expressed support for the concept of mandatory boater education in Washington is also listed on the site.

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