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Be an educated boater – Know and follow the “Rules of the Water”

Do not to leave safety at the dock this summer

Summer is here and nothing signals summer in Erie County like boating.  Whether you are visiting the Erie Basin Marina, fishing in the Niagara River, cruising through Canalside or motoring to the Point Abino Lighthouse, Western New York offers an abundance of waterways providing outstanding recreational opportunities for boating enthusiasts. 

Just as there are “rules of the road” that govern the safe flow of traffic for vehicles, there are “rules of the waterways” that govern the safe maneuvering of boats.  I encourage all recreational boaters and jet skiers to know the risks, learn the rules and be prepared before taking the helm this boating season.

New York State requires all persons are at least 10 years of age to operate a motorboat, as well as all personal watercraft operators, born on or after May 1, 1996, successfully complete a state-approved 8-hour boater education classroom course and proctored exam. According to research conducted by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in 70 percent of all boating fatalities the operator had not taken a boating safety class.   A list of an approved Boater Safety Course near you can be found at

Those who pass the course will be issued a boating card and required to have it on their person when on the water.  Failure to do so could result in a fine between $100 and $250, depending on the circumstances. An alternative to carrying the boating card is to go to the state Department of Motor Vehicles and have it noted on your driver’s license that you have successfully completed the course.

State law also requires that any boat motor-driven, operated on NYS waters must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). We ask that you take this opportunity to keep a portion of registration fees in Erie County by registering your boat in person at any one of our Auto Bureau offices located throughout Erie County.  Proof of identity, date of birth and proof of ownership are required to register a boat. For additional information, please contact the Erie County Auto Bureau Call Center at 716-858-7450 or visit us at

Under New York law no one may operate a vessel on the waters of NYS while impaired or intoxicated through the consumption of either alcohol or drugs. Alcohol impairs one’s ability to function properly and is a factor in 30 percent of all boating related fatalities. In an effort to send a clear message to our young boaters, New York State has enacted legislation, for those under 21 years of age, providing for the suspension or revocation of operating privileges if caught drinking while operating a vessel.

One last safety tip, and possibly the most important, is to always wear a life jacket and make sure your passengers do as well. Seventy-nine percent of all recreational boat drownings occurred when boaters did not wear a life jacket. Wear It! A life jacket will help ensure you and everyone on board returns home safely.

The Erie County Clerk’s Office is pleased to offer the “The New York State Boater’s Guide”, a convenient handbook, containing registration, operation and safety information for the prudent mariner. To obtain your copy, call the Clerk’s office at 858-8866 or request one at

Everyone should do their part to make sure the waters are safe. Your time on the water should be enjoyable for you, your family and friends. I hope you enjoy the summer boating season by boating smart and boating safe!