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Young new boaters must get educated before hitting lake

Kile Glover Boater Education law takes effect Tuesday

POSTED: June 28, 2014 9:52 p.m.

As Cpl. Eddie Tompkins and Ranger Shane Brown of the Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division flash their blue lights, Flowery Branch resident Michael Alvarez brings his boat to a halt.

Sidling up, the officers begin performing an inspection, one of many the DNR will be performing with the Fourth of July weekend around the corner.

Everything Alvarez needs for the inspection is tucked away in the cushions of his boat, with 13 additional life jackets onboard.

“People that live here on the lake and have been here their whole lives know those rules and those regulations,” Alvarez said.

Starting Tuesday, some new rules will be in effect, though.

All boat operators born after Jan. 1, 1998, will be required to pass a boater education course as part of provisions in the Kile Glover Boater Education law signed last year.

The law was named after a child who was killed on Lake Lanier when hit by a personal watercraft.

Those renting boats also must get some education, provided in video format at most rental shops, and pass a test.

While Alvarez said has not taken a boating safety course, his nephew has gone through one to get his personal watercraft training.

DNR public affairs officer Mark McKinnon said he believes the education requirement is one of the least well-known sections of the new law.

“I think the new mandatory boater education is going to be something that we’re really going to have to work on to get people to understand,” he said.

For the Fourth of July weekend, Capt. Thomas Barnard said the DNR will partner with the Hall County and Forsyth County sheriff’s offices, running four patrol boats for the busiest time of the year.

He estimates the amount of boaters on the water will increase by one-third compared to last year.

“I think a lot of it’s got to be weather-related and the economy is getting better,” Barnard said.

Boater education courses can be completed in a classroom, online or through a home-study program.

One such course is taught by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary at a flotilla stationed on Lake Lanier. In seven hours, Coast Guard Auxiliary members instruct students on the basics of boating, from learning the parts of the boat to how to work the equipment. When finished, students must pass a 50-question, multiple-choice test to be certified.

“We generally say that the minimum age for the class is 12, because while there isn’t reading required during the class, they do have to be able to read the test questions,” said Sara Snyder, flotilla vice commander.

Snyder estimates a third of the class is between 15 and 19 years of age, although 70-year-olds have also been in the classroom.

Since the signing of the new law, Snyder estimates the flotilla has seen a 25 percent increase in young students.
In state waters, 22 people have drowned since Jan. 1 of this year, eight more than compared to the same span of last year. This year, however, has had less rain and has seen more people on the water.

Requiring everyone born in 1998 or after to take boating safety courses, McKinnon said, will eventually make it a mainstay like a driver’s license.

Throughout this weekend, DNR officers have been patrolling the waterways for “Operation Dry Water,” an awareness initiative to limit boating under the influence.

In 2013, the first year the boating under the influence blood-alcohol limit was 0.08, 160 arrests were made by conservation rangers, according to the DNR.

The limit was changed as part of the Jake and Griffin Prince BUI law, a companion to the Kile Glover Boater Education law, this one named for two boys who were killed in a boating accident on Lake Lanier that involved a drunk boater.


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