The 2018 boating season has begun in Shasta County. As the temperatures rise, the boating safety attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel have suggestions for staying safe on the lakes.

Know the New Laws on Licensing

As of January 1, 2018, all boaters aged 20 and younger who operate a motorized vessel must have a California Boater Card. By 2025, all vessel operators must have this card. The law, passed in 2014, is being phased in over seven years. Each year, a new age group is added to the list of boaters who must carry a California Boater Card.

A California Boater Card certifies that the holder has successfully passed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and state-approved boater safety education exam. The exam is the final step in an online or in-person boating safety course that all motorized vessel operators must take before applying for the Boater Card.

The card costs $10 and does not expire. Replacement cards are $5. Vessel operators must carry with them the card or proof that they meet an exception. Violations result in fines from $100 to $500.

The phased-in requirements by age are listed below.

  • January 1, 2018 – Persons 20 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2019 – Persons 25 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2020 – Persons 35 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2021 – Persons 40 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2022 – Persons 45 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2023 – Persons 50 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2024 – Persons 60 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2025 – All persons regardless of age

Exceptions to the California Boater Card requirement can be found at http://californiaboatercard.com/. One exception that has caught the eye of boating accident attorneys is operators of rented vessels. These boaters are exempted in part because boat rental agents usually provide basic safety training before a renter can take out a boat. Also, in 2014, when the legislature passed the bill, only 9% of boating accidents involved rented boats. A primary goal of the law was to increase boating safety and reduce boating accidents.

Check the Weather Before You Go Out

Weather and hazardous waters contribute to hundreds of boating accidents each year. Always check the weather before leaving shore. Make sure you are prepared for expected weather conditions as well as sudden weather changes.

Even when weather conditions aren’t dangerous, they can make a boating excursion uncomfortable if boaters aren’t properly prepared.

Stock the Right Safety Equipment

California law requires most watercraft to carry specific safety equipment. The required equipment varies according to the type of watercraft. For example, while all boats must have life jackets on board, only the largest motor boats must carry more than one fire extinguisher.

Boat accident attorneys remind boaters that the legal requirements for safety equipment are only the minimums. Many safety experts recommend that boats carry additional items for emergencies.

Use Sunscreen

Sunburns are painful. Sunburns aren’t the only risk of skipping sunscreen, though. People who repeatedly expose their skin to the sun without sunscreen are at higher risk of skin cancer. Children are especially susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun’s rays.

Neither cloudy days nor sitting inside the boat next to windows will protect you from harmful UV rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that as much as 80% of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds. Glass windows filter out UVB rays but do not protect against UVA rays. Therefore, applying sunscreen every time you go out is the best plan for preventing skin damage from the sun.

Avoid Alcohol

According to Coast Guard boating accident statistics, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in boating accident deaths. For fatal accidents with a known primary cause, alcohol use caused 15% of the fatal boating accidents.

Operating a boat, water skis, or aquaplane while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is .08%. However, vessel operators with a lower BAC can be found to be boating under the influence (BUI). Such a finding is supported by behavior indicating intoxication.

Violators of BUI laws can face fines up to $1,000 and up to six months or longer in jail. Felony criminal charges can apply in boating accidents with injuries or death.

Wear a Lifejacket

All children under the age of 13 must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while a vessel is underway. A few exceptions apply. Boating accident attorneys know that once a person is overboard, it’s too late to put on a life jacket. Therefore, boating accident attorneys and safety experts recommend that all persons onboard wear life jackets.

Springtime is a beautiful time to enjoy Northern California’s lakes. Redding’s boating safety attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel remind boaters to obey the laws and use common sense when on the water.

If a boating accident has injured you or a loved one, call the boating accident attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel today.