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MONTHLY COLUMN: 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

State law also requires that any motor-driven watercraft must be registered with the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV). If you use a motor (electric or fuel-driven), regardless of the size of your boat or the motor, you must register your boat. I encourage you to take this opportunity to “Renew Local” and help keep a portion of your registration fees local by registering your boat in person at any one of our Erie County Auto Bureau branches.  A completed Boater Registration/Title Application (MV-82B), proof of identity, date of birth and proof of ownership are all required to register a boat. For additional information, please contact the Erie County Clerk’s Outreach Center at 716-858-8864 or visit  

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. 

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

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