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July 13th, 2011

New Texas Boating Laws Aim to Prevent Accidents

In Texas, boating accident fatality numbers per 100,000 registered boaters are more than twice the national average.  It is these statistics that have resulted in the drafting of legislation that would require mandatory boater education.

A new piece of legislation that has been proposed by Representative Dan Parker, Republican-Flower Mound, would require that boaters born on or after 1 September 1993, undergo a mandatory boating education program.  The legislation would apply to boats that have greater horsepower than 15, or boats that measure more than 15 feet in length.  Under the law, boaters will be required to have not just a valid ID, but also documentation of having passed the boating education program.  The law will not apply to those boaters who were born before September 1, 1993.

The decision will not change the curriculum of the current boating education program taught by instructors sanctioned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Broadly, the course covers boat handling, navigation rules, handling of accidents, safety and other aspects.  However, boaters who fail to comply with this education requirement will be charged with a class C misdemeanor.  A conviction would result in a fine of a maximum of $500.

Another recent law requires a Texas Parks and Wildlife to produce a boating safety video that would be included in all driver education programs that are sponsored by the state.

It’s been no secret to maritime lawyers in Texas that we need to strongly address the lack of sufficient boater education in the state.  Many boating accidents in Texas can be traced to ignorance or lack of training.  We wouldn’t allow a person to drive a car without undergoing a driver education program, and there’s no reason why we should not do the same for boaters.

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