Submitted by the Washington State Parks
During Spring Aboard Week, March 22-28, the Washington State Parks Boating Program encourages boaters to prepare for the upcoming season by taking a boating safety certification course.
Developed by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and produced under a grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, the annual Spring Aboard campaign informs and motivates boaters and paddlers on how to enroll in a boating safety course.
Why be certified in boating safety?
For many boaters, it’s the law. In Washington state, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15-horsepower engine (or greater) must be certified and carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.
“We encourage all boaters to take a safety course, even if they’re not legally required to,” said Rob Sendak, State Parks Boating Program Manager. “When people take a boating safety course, they are choosing to learn a variety of skills that can make them better boaters and help keep our waters safer.”
Getting certified is as easy as taking a self-paced online course. Other options include instructor-led classroom courses and hands-on training throughout the year, but many in-person courses are being canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
For boaters with significant experience, a home study with an equivalency exam is also an option. Each course gives a strong foundational knowledge of boating safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules.
As of Feb. 28, more than 369,900 Washingtonians have obtained a Boater Education Card.
How do boaters obtain a Boater Education Card?
After completing and passing a state-approved boating safety course or equivalency exam, students must apply for a Boater Education Card with their proof of certification. Many online course providers will complete this step and charge a third-party fee. If boaters apply directly with the Boating Program, the one-time fee for the card is $10. More information about courses and the boater education card can be found at www.boatered.org.
Some important things to know:
U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that, of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 80 percent of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had never received boating education instruction.
Boat operators born before Jan. 1, 1955, are exempt from the Washington requirement but may choose to get a card if they plan to go boating in Canada or Oregon, which requires proof that they completed a boating education course. The Washington State Boater Education Card is valid in those two areas.
Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of having completed a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels.
When required by law, the fine for not carrying a valid Boater Education Card in Washington state is $99.