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Boating Laws NJ, CT, & NY

Note - Information on this page was current as of the date of posting. Every effort is made to keep it current as legislative changes occur. For the most current information refer to your local state rules and regulations. This information is often available on the web under your state's division of motor vehicles, department of boating safety, or state police web pages.

The following article came out from the Associated Press in September 2009

NY requires life jackets for cold weather boaters

ALBANY, N.Y. — Seizing on the chilling fact that drowning happens faster in cold water, New York has become the first state to require life jackets on everyone in all small boats during the coldest half of the year.
More boating accidents happen in the summer, when more people are out on the water, but the fatality rate rises in the colder months, from 8 percent nationally in July to 25 percent in November last year. Officials say the scarcity of other boaters to help with rescues also increases the risk of death.

"The cold water carries greater risks than summertime warm weather boating," state parks department spokesman Dan Keefe said. "You lose your ability to swim. Even strong swimmers can succumb to the cold water because their arms and legs get numb and useless."  Falling into cold water can trigger shock, as well as gasping, causing the unexpected swimmer to suddenly inhale water. Immersion in water colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to hypothermia and passing out within 15 minutes.

Starting Nov. 1, kayakers, canoeists and those aboard all other boats under 21 feet must wear Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices while on New York's coastal waters, lakes, rivers and other waterways. The rule will remain in effect through May 1. Violators face fines ranging from $25 to $100.  Similar seasonal requirements for wearing personal flotation devices apply to canoes and kayaks in Massachusetts and to all manually propelled vessels, including rowboats, in Connecticut.  The New York law is broader, affecting all pleasure craft, including small sailboats and motorboats, according to the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The department, which oversees marine law enforcement in New York, sought the law. The state Legislature passed the bill, with boating industry backing, in the spring. Gov. David Paterson signed it this summer.
"It's perhaps the No. 1 best thing you can do to protect yourself on the water, wearing a life jacket," said Matthew Long, of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
New York law already required PFDs for all children under 12 on boats less than 65 feet, with life jackets onboard for others. They must also be worn by anyone in tow — like water skiers and tubers — and by all riders on personal watercraft, Keefe said. Racing shells used by crew teams are exempt from the requirement.
Most boating deaths nationally are drownings from smaller craft, with 421 last year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Of the 709 total boating deaths, 510 people drowned. About 90 percent weren't wearing life jackets.
A Coast Guard study shows only 23 percent of all boaters wear PFDs, including children generally required to wear them. That rate drops to 5 percent of adults in open motorboats
In New York, 21 boaters died last year, four in the colder seasons, Keefe said. The 2007 total was the same, with six dying in colder months.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

NJ State Police Site - Title 13 Chapter 64 - Personal Water Craft Operation - N.J.A.C 13:64 (2006) (36 page PDF file Adobe reader required)

NJ State Police site - Title 13 Chapter 82 - Boating Regulations - N.J.A.C 13:82 (2006) (39 page PDF file Adobe Reader required)

July 2006 - New regulations regarding Liability Insurance for NJ boaters with vessels over 25 horsepower. Update January 2007 - law was never enacted.

5/24/2006 - This is an excerpt from an article by Gus Formato from 10-13 published in the May 2006 edition of WAVES, the news letter of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary Department of Boating.

The bar has been raised. Is your state leading the nation in boating safety education or is it trying to catch up?

Connecticut was a pioneer in requiring most state boaters to successfully complete one of three safe boating courses before legally operating a boat on state waters. In Connecticut, boaters must have a Safe Boating Certificate in order to operate any motorized vessel or sailboat in excess of 19.5 feet in length. All Connecticut residents, owners of real property in Connecticut, and anyone using Connecticut waterways more than 60 days per year are subject to these requirements. As an alternative to the classroom course, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection allows experienced boaters to take a 50- question, multiple-choice Equivalency Examination.

Connecticut also requires PWC operators to successfully complete both an approved boating course and a personal watercraft course in order to obtain a Certificate of Personal Watercraft.

New Jersey has recently adopted similar legislation. In New Jersey, successful completion of an approved boating safety course is now a requirement to obtain a boating operators license. This requirement is applicable to all motorized vessels in excess of 10 HP, as well as PWCs. Like Connecticut, New Jersey legislation provides for a "test-out option", whereby experienced boaters (100+ hours of operating experience), born prior to 1979, may take an exam in lieu of completing a boating safety course. Candidates may only attempt to pass this exam once. If they are unsuccessful, they will be required to complete an approved boating safety course. Currently "test-out" exams are only administered by the New Jersey State Police. However, provisions are being drafted to allow the USCGAUX as well as the United States Power Squadron to administer the "test-out" exams.

New York State is exploring similar legislation.

How does your state compare? Check the graphic below, or find specifics at the following website: http://www.nasbla.org/education_requirements.htm

Additional information is available at the NASBLA website, http://www.nasbla.org/, as well as the USCGAUX Boating Department website, http://www.auxbdept.org/.

In conclusion, proactive approaches to boating safety legislation ensure all recreational boaters a safer and more enjoyable time on our waterways.

US Map of States requiring Boat Operator Certification

3/30/2006 Proposed Boating Law Changes for NJ - New Jersey Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew (District 1: Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland), has proposed a bill (A2212) that would require kids ages 13-15 to wear a life jacket when a boat is underway. Current state law requires kids 12 years and younger to wear a PFD whenever the boat is underway.

Here is the latest on Boating Law changes for New Jersey and New York.

NEW YORK- this new law took effect 1 Jan 2006.

It increased the minimum age for operating a PWC (personal water craft/jet ski), unsupervised, to 14 from the previous age 10 limit. It will eventually ban operation by children under the age of 14 altogether. To allow for a phase in of those children currently in the 10-14 age range. The new law allows for children age 10-13 operating a PWC to be accompanied by someone who is at least 18 years old and on a vessel within 500 feet in plain sight of the child. The adult must also have a boating certificate. The law will ban operation by children 13 and younger completely effective 1 Jan. 2009. See the NY State Parks site for more information. Generally, Boating Safety Certificates from other states are acceptable in NY.

NEW JERSEY- Many changes for 2006:

  1. No one may operate a sailboat over 12 feet (power or sail) without completing a boating safety course and getting a certificate by 1 June 2008.
  2. Any person who is 16 years of age or older and was born after 31 Dec 1978 shall not operate a power driven vessel without taking an approved boating safety course and obtaining a certificate by 1 June 2008.
  3. Written tests may be taken by an "experienced boater". Must sign a statement that you have 100 hours at the helm of a vessel. You may challenge the test only once. Internet studying will be available; however test is closed book and must be administered by an approved Instructor. See our Public Education page if you wish to contact one of our instructors to opt for the test-out option.
  4. DMV will not enter "boat" on your NJ drivers license without proof of certification.
  5. On new boat purchases from a dealership, you may operate vessel for 60 days without an approved safety certificate provided you have completed a pre-first-time approved course provided by the boat dealership. Dealer must have certification.
  6. Mandatory boat safety course certification is being phased in based on your age, based on the following dates. A Safety Certificate is required as of June 1st of each year as follows for:

i. all persons born after 12/31/78 (28 years old or younger on 1/1/2006)

ii. by 1 June 2006, if you were born after 12/31/68 to before 12/31/78 (persons aged 28-38 as of 1/1/06).

iii. by 1 June 2007, if you were born after 12/31/58 to before 12/31/68 (persons aged 38-48 as of 1/1/06)

iv. by 1 June 2008, if you were born after 12/31/48 to before 12/31/58 (persons aged 48-58 as of 1/1/06)

v. by 1 June 2009 by all persons regardless of age.

See also NJ Motor Vehicle Services decision tree chart or http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/pdf/Licenses/boating-safety-education-040406.pdf.

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