Beginning July 1, any person born on or after Jan. 1, 1998 must complete a boat education course to operate a motorized boat on public waters in Georgia. Upon completion of the course – which must be approved by the state’s Department of Natural Resources – a card issued to the test-taker must be with the boat driver on the water.
The new boating regulation, named for 11-year-old Kile Glover, who was struck and killed by a jet ski on Lake Lanier in 2012, was signed into law last April by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. It was part of sweeping boat safety legislation spurred by the deaths of Glover and Jake and Griffin Prince – who were also killed on Lake Lanier – that included lowering the blood-alcohol content for boaters to .08.
The new law, which this year will require education for boat drivers under age 16, will eventually educate all boat drivers on water safety, boat operation, water laws, lifejacket requirements and other guidelines for navigating waters.
“Each year, as the law grows, we’ll have all of our boating folks who are operating on water taking a class,” said Georgia Department of Natural Resources Capt. Mike England.
The law’s birthdate cutoff will not change, so each subsequent year will require a higher age bracket to have passed a boat education course.
“If you ever plan to operate a boat, it’s good to get it out of the way,” England said.
Because the law goes into effect in the middle of the summer boating season, boat enthusiasts, especially those under age 16, should prepare to take a class to avoid missing days on the water.
So far this spring, Georgia DNR has not seen people rush to take a boat education class. Many children ages 12 to 15 have completed a boating education course because it has been required for the age group to operate a Class A vessel or personal water craft such as a jet ski without an adult, England said.
Classes can be completed online for a fee, or DNR occasionally offers a free classroom course. For non-Georgia residents, boat education courses approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, or an equal exam, will be honored.
“It’s an opportunity to really educate the boating public, which we feel like we’ve never done before,” England said.