After the tragic disappearance of two young teens, Florida legislators have been considering laws that would increase the legal boating age. According to the Palm Beach Post, Irv Slosberg is pushing for a bill that would require boaters to be at least 16 years of age to operate a vessel.
Currently, young boaters are required to take boating education courses. As per Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations, individuals born after January 1, 1988 to take approved safety education classes. Boaters are required to hold a safety card received after passing the course, but there is no age restriction on how old a boater must be in order to receive a card.
Legislators have not commented about whether they will push to require boaters to hold a boating driving license, but there have been discussions about whether licensing should be required, and whether younger boaters should be required to take more extensive boating education courses.
Currently, boaters who are 27 years of age or older are not even required to have satisfactorily passed a boating safety class. This means that the vast majority of older boaters on Florida waterways may not be aware of basic safety skills that can save their lives – or the lives of their passengers.
Citizens seem torn about the new measures. Florida culture has definitely been rather permissive when it comes to accepting younger boaters. For many, boating is a family affair. Others are horrified that unsupervised children can theoretically operate a boat in public waterways, putting themselves and others in danger. No 10-year-old would be allowed to drive a car – the logic goes – so is it wise to allow a 10-year-old to operate a vessel?
Young boaters can put beach-goers, swimmers, infrastructure (bridges and pylons), and other boaters at risk for serious accidents. This doesn’t even take into account the risk of property damage.
While a boating accident lawyer may be able to help the victims of a crash caused by a minor, no amount of compensation can heal the emotional scars that result from the loss of a loved one or from the permanent disability of a family member.
Though some families want to keep the government out of local boating culture, the government does have a vested interest in keeping people safe, and setting a minimum boating age may help to reduce accidents in open waters.
Will the laws pass? The reality is that boating laws are not likely to change anytime soon. Legislation sometimes takes years to gain widespread acceptance.
Until the laws are changed, families have to make the tough personal decision about when to allow their children to operate a vessel. Families should definitely consider both the safety and the financial risks. Even if their children abide by proper safety laws – and are held responsible for a boating accident – parents can be held financially accountable for any damages their kids cause while boating.