PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is teaming up with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) next week as part of the Spring Aboard campaign to encourage boaters to enroll in a boating education course. An informed and knowledgeable boat operator is much more likely to recognize hazardous conditions on the water and avoid a boating mishap.
"Once again this year, DEM is working in partnership with state boating officials throughout the country to encourage boaters to Spring Aboard and take a safety course," said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, boating safety coordinator for DEM's Division of Law Enforcement. "All boaters have a duty to be responsible for themselves and for those on their vessel. This spring, while you're getting your boat readied for the water, prepare yourself for a safe boating season by taking a boater education course. With the wide variety of classroom and online offerings, there's a program to fit every boater's schedule."
Classroom courses are offered through local boating safety organizations, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons. In addition, DEM offers an online study course for those boaters who would like the convenience of studying at home. Boaters using this online option must pass a proctored exam to receive certification. For a list of boating education courses, visit www.dem.ri.gov.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in accidents where the level of operator education was known, 77 percent of boating deaths occurred on vessels where the boat operator never received boating education instruction. There are nearly 40,000 registered boats in Rhode Island. DEM's Division of Law Enforcement responded to 51 boating accidents in 2017; these incidents resulted in four fatalities and 17 injuries.
"We know that an educated boater is safer on the water," said Tom Guess, president of NASBLA, which is the lead organization for the Spring Aboard campaign. "If a boater has taken a boating safety education course, the likelihood of their time spent on the water being a safe and enjoyable experience is much greater for them as well as their passengers. There's no reason to head out on the water without knowing what you're doing, and spring is the perfect time to take a course before the summer boating season begins."
Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels. In Rhode Island, successful completion of a boating safety course is required for all boaters born after January 1, 1986 who operate a boat with a motor greater than 10 horsepower; and for all operators, regardless of age, of personal watercraft.
The annual Spring Aboard campaign is led by NASBLA and produced under a grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and supported by state, federal and nonprofit partners. It is open to participation by all states, territories, boating education organizations, instructors, and course providers. For more information, visit www.springaboard.org.
For more information on Rhode Island boating laws, visit DEM's website. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for more information on boating in Rhode Island as well as other timely updates.