New boating law an effort to keep state waterways safe

Published 7:46 pm Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Buying a boat and immediately taking it out onto the water is no longer a legal option for boaters in Georgia, regardless if they are licensed or not.

The new law, effective July 1, says anyone born after Jan. 1, 1998 must complete an online course in order to operate a water vessel.

“In an effort to provide a mechanism for ensuring that Georgia boaters are knowledgeable, boaters will be required to complete a boating education course,” DNR Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, assistant director of Law Enforcement said. “After all, tragedy can happen quickly, and making an effort to learn boating laws, rules and regulations can potentially save a life – including your own.”

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DNR ranger Tony Cox said the law is fair and takes almost no time at all to work through the mandatory course.

“It takes you less than a day to do it,” Cox said. “You can be certified to drive a boat after you take that class if you’re 16. It’s very simple. It will take you a couple hours of your time.”

Cox said since you have to have a license to drive a car, there should be similar laws for boats.

“People buy a boat for the first time and never used it before in their life,” Cox said. “This just gives them basic laws and basic knowledge for that. Basic knowledge is all it is.”

The law has only three exemptions: a person licensed by the Coast Guard as the master of a vessel, a person operating a vessel on a private lake or pond and a non-resident who has in their possession proof that they have completed a NASBLA- approved boater education course or equivalency examination from another state.

Classes are offered through local DNR offices and online at

Graduates from the boating course must have their proof of graduation with them while operating a water vehicle. If operating a vehicle without their proof of graduation, boaters must have an adult 18 years old or older with them.

The law, known as Senate Bill 136, also lowered the legal limit of a boater’s blood alcohol concentration from .10 to .08 and has stricter penalties for hunting and boating under the influence.