MANASQUAN, N.J. – With the ending of the 211th Legislature, the passage of boater education legislation places New Jersey’s education law amongst the strongest in the nation, according to the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey (MTA/NJ), which said Assembly Bill 2624 (Smith) was a major priority for the association.
The new boater education and safety law applies to all people age 16 years and older who operate registered vessels above 12 feet that are defined as power vessels under the law. It becomes effective over a staggered period of time. Specifically, persons born after December 31, 1978 have to take the course immediately. Persons born after December 31, 1968 and on or before December 31, 1978 have to take the course before June 1, 2006. Persons born after December 31, 1958 and on or before December 31, 1968 have to take the course before June 1, 2007. Persons born after December 31, 1948 and on or before December 31, 1958 have to take the course before June 1, 2008. All other persons need to take the course before June 1, 2009, according to the association.
This bill states that “out of state” boaters 18 years of age and older who operate a power vessel for less than 90 days in New Jersey are exempt from the safety course if they can show proof of similar education from NASBLA, the Coast Guard or other state.
At the request of legislators and others who are long time boaters, language was added to the law that allows the Superintendent of State Police to develop an “experienced boater test”. Persons taking and passing the test will not be required to complete the boat safety course. The test is required to be developed using national standards, MTA/NJ reported.
The association said it was successful in defining what the boat safety course would look like. The boat safety course must be at least eight hours of instruction, including six hours of classroom time and a closed book examination. This definition, and the definition in the law for “approved boat safety instructor,” are identical to NASBLA national standards.
The personal watercraft law was also updated in this Act. Specifically, the law regarding the operation of a PWC was changed to require all persons, age 16 years and older, to take a boat safety course without exception. This does not apply to persons renting a PWC, however, and that law remains in effect. In addition, the bill does not apply to persons renting a boat. The rental laws require only that a person receive safety instruction from the rental company prior to use and these laws and regulations have been in effect since 1997, according to the association.
“We believe that an informed boater – one who has completed a standardized boating safety class-– is much more likely to be a safe and courteous boater,” stated MTA/NJ President Tom Leaming. “An educated boater will be prepared to follow the Rules of the Road making our waterways safer and more enjoyable for everyone.”
The legislation was passed after a more than three-year effort by the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey. The MTA/NJ argued successfully that a strong standard, based on national review and research, would improve boating safety in New Jersey.
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