Augusta, Ga (WJBF)- In South Carolina, you may soon have to take a boater safety class if you’re heading out on the water. That is if a proposed bill passes the House Judiciary Committee next week.
Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that in 74 percent of deaths that occurred on watercrafts, the operator did not have boater safety training.
If this bill becomes law, it would require everyone born after July 1, 2007 to take a safety course before operating a jet ski or boat with a motor.
Under South Carolina’s current law, education requirements end once a person turns 16. Anyone older does not have to take a course.
In Georgia, boaters born after January 1, 1998 have been required to take a boat education course since July 2014.
“Cars have brakes. They have turn signals. They have lines to follow on the road. When you’re on the water, there’s no lines to follow. There’s no brakes. The only lights you have is when you’re operating at night. There’s no turn signals on a boat or anything like that. Learning how to operate a boat, learning your NAV rules and the rules of the road is very important while operating a vessel,” explained Cory Bohannon, a game warden with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
In 2022, the Coast Guard reported that there were 636 boating fatalities nationwide, a 3.3 percent decrease from the 658 deaths in 2021.
And last year, South Carolina had 170 boating accidents with 90 injuries, and 22 deaths.
Supporters of the bill in South Carolina believe that if more people were required to take a course like this, those numbers would go down.
All but 4 states in the U.S. have laws requiring boater safety classes.
“Our game wardens spend about 1700 hours a year teaching 150 classes to prevent anything from happening. There’s very small- little things that you need on board that could potentially safe your life and it’s just a small price to pay,” said Bohannon.
The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday.
CLICK HERE for information on boater safety courses in Georgia.
CLICK HERE for information on boater safety classes in South Carolina.