New proposed boater education bill could change requirements for some boat lovers

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ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–A new proposed senate boater education bill, could change requirements for many people before hitting the waterways across the state.

S. 497, is the new proposed “boater education bill”. It states anyone born after July 1, 2006–wanting to operate a boat with an engine of 10 horsepower or greater, cannot, without having a state boating safety certificate.

“If it enacted in 2022 next year, if you are not 16 by July 1st of next year, then anyone after that date, will be required to successfully complete a boater education course, before they can operate a boat, with anything greater than 10 horse power,” said Major Billy Downer, Staff Operations for Law Enforcement Division with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). “And it will eventually grab everyone, but it’ll be something that steps in over time,” he added. “If you’re already 16, on that date, then you’ll be grandfathered for the rest of your life.”

A current law states, anyone under the age of 16, wanting to operate a boat with a 15 horsepower or greater, must pass the boater education first.

“Anyone under the age of 16 who wants to operate a boat, with a 15 horse power, greater motor, greater than 15 horse power, and they’re under 16, there going to have to have passed a board education class before they can operate that boat by themselves. With the exception of young people who want to operate a boat that may have a person 18 years of age or older with them, like a parent or older sibling, who can monitor their activities while they are operating a boat,” Major Downer said.

“I think that with more education, people are going to be more aware of. They can be more cautious on how to operate that motor, and then maybe we can have less deaths,” said Yen Nguyen, resident.

The SCDNR said in 2019, they saw 14 deaths, but in 2020, that number more than doubled with nearly 30 deaths. They believe more education is needed.

“I feel like the general boater out on the lake can do fine with just common sense. And once you get up to that rougher weather, or the higher speed boats, most of those people learned that through just years on the water,” said Levi Sanchez, a boater.

Sanchez now competes for Clemson University as a angler. He said he first started operating a boat alone at 14 years old. He now feels for those younger than him.

“I would feel bad for them, because it would be one more thing they would have to do just to get on the water, and I don’t think it would benefit them that much,” said Sanchez.

SCDNR said many are buying boats and don’t know how to operate them. Now this will add an extra layer of precaution.

“This new law requires you to show, as well as the current law, requires those to have boater education to show proof of completion. So having that card on you, it’s not a boater license, if you will, but it is a certificate that says you have passed boater education,” Major Downer said.

Major Downer said there is another addition of education accepted. He said the new law would recognize any Merchant Mariners credential, as well. SCDNR also offers free classes to the public.

However, Sanchez, still doesn’t agree with the proposal overall.

“I support that they’re trying to make things safer, but a lot of just general education common sense does a lot. and just a lot of things you can’t learn through a course,” Sanchez said.

The proposed bill, does have some exemptions if it were to pass.

To read more about the proposed bill, click here.

The senate republican spokesperson said proposed bill might be discussed on Wednesday or Thursday. No action was taken on this bill as of Tuesday night.

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