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Little-Known Law Requires Safety Training For Some Boaters

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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ARLINGTON (CBDFW.COM) - Most boaters on Texas waters think they know laws regulating boat users. And, in Texas that used to mean very little regulation at all.

“If you’re under 17 you need to take a course and get a permit and you need to have someone else out with you when you’re on it,” said Dylan Tissue as he took his boat off of Lake Arlington. “And then once you’re 18 and above, I believe you can just take your boat out and go.”

That’s what most boaters think — but that’s the way the law used to be. Anyone over 18 was free to drive their boat without any training.

“It’s like not taking a drivers safety course or driver’s ed. course before getting in a car,” said Kristy Sheikh, lake services coordinator for the City of Arlington Parks Department.

And anyone who’s spent time on the water has seen untrained boaters doing something dangerous like:

“Slowing down way too fast and you have the wake behind you just go straight into the boat and it’s a mess,” Tissue said. “I’ve seen that happen first hand and it’s not cool.”

But a little-known law went into effect last year requiring safety training for some and making it easier to access for others.

Now, anyone born in or after September of 1993 must watch training videos and complete online coursework to earn a boating safety certificate. All operators of personal watercraft are required to complete safety training.

The idea is to ramp up a system statewide to eventually have all legal boaters properly trained. But its taking time for people to learn about it.

“I think it is becoming more common, especially as they’re buying new watercraft,” Sheikh said. “However, some of the older generation don’t exactly know that it is a requirement.”

Getting the actual certificate costs about 20-dollars. But Texas is offering the online training free to everyone. They hope it will help avoid potentially dangerous water accidents like this one and make the water safer for everyone.

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