New York Gov. George Pataki has signed into law legislation intended to increase safety on New York’s waterways by increasing the minimum age of those allowed to operate personal watercraft to 14 years old.
Current law requires any person between the ages 10 and 18 to possess a boating safety certificate to operate any mechanically powered vessel, including personal watercraft, meaning that operators as young as 10 years old are allowed to operate these vessels.
The new law will restrict personal watercraft operation to those persons 14 years of age or older. Operators will still be required to possess a boating safety certificate.
Officials note that many youngsters lack the physical height and strength needed to properly handle a personal watercraft, which have evolved into larger and heavier watercraft. Today they can be as long as 12 feet in length, equipped with engines of up to 1500ccs and capable of reaching speeds up to 60 mph. These engine sizes are now comparable to those found on larger motorcycles.
According to Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington said, New York is currently one of only three states that allow children to operate personal watercrafts at age 10 without any supervision of an adult. “Today’s personal watercrafts are bigger, faster, and more powerful than ever before. Increasing the operating age from 10 to 14 is a common-sense measure that will improve water safety for our families,” she commented.
According to the New York State 2004 Recreational Boating Report, in 2004 there was a dramatic reduction in fatalities, injuries and boating accidents from the previous year. Fatalities dropped 47 percent from 34 to 18; injuries decreased from 132 to 93 and the number of accidents dropped by a third from 303 to 204. These figures represent the second safest season since such statistics have been kept.
New York ranks seventh in the country for total number of registered boats with more than 520,000 motorized vessels and the state’s fatality rate for registered boaters is below the national average.
The new law will take effect Jan. 1, 2006.
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