The following is a guest column by Erie County Clerk Christopher Jacobs.
Summer is here and nothing signals summer in Western New York like boating. Whether you are visiting the Erie Basin Marina, fishing in the Niagara River, cruising down the Erie Canal 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.
Effective May 1, New York state now requires all persons born on or after May 1, 1996, that operate a motorboat and all personal watercraft operators, to 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, 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 www.nysparks.com/recreation/boating
State law also requires that any boat motor-driven, operated on NYS waters, must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. 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 858-7450 or visit us at www.erie.gov/clerk
Under NYS law, no one may operate a vessel on the waters of NYS while impaired or intoxicated through the consumption of either alcohol or drugs. Sadly, 30 percent of all boating related fatalities are a direct result of one being impaired due to alcohol consumption.
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 a life jacket to 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 or for any other questions, comments or concerns, call the Erie County Clerk’s office at 858-8866 or e-mail us at ErieCountyClerkOffice@erie.gov.
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, as well as others on the high seas. I hope you enjoy the summer boating season by boating smart and boating safe!