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December 13, 2007

Florida could institute boater ID card

Florida could institute boater ID card

Outside of marina closings, what has been the hot topic of discussion around the docks of Steinhatchee, Florida?
 
"It sure would be a good idea if people had to take a boating class before they operated a boat," says Capt. Steve Kroll. "We talk about that a lot, but I don't believe the state wants to go to that length."
 
Think again. A proposal to require all boaters to pass a basic safety class before operating a vessel is currently on the desk of Capt. Richard Moore, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's state boating-law administrator.
 
Currently, only boaters under 21 years old are required to take such a course in Florida, but the proposed plan, which was issued by the Boating Advisory Council and likely will go into the 2008 legislative package, would raise the age in 5-year increments over the next 11 years.
 
That would mean by 2020 all boaters under 76 years of age would need a boater ID card to operate a craft in the state of Florida.
 
Instituting such requirements has typically reduced boating fatalities by 25 percent in other states such as Connecticut and Oregon, Moore says. That was a principal driver of this proposal, as fatalities in Florida have climbed steadily in recent years along with the general number of registered boaters (a record 81 fatalities were recorded in 2005). Additionally, and perhaps surprisingly, most of these fatalities involved experienced boaters rather than newcomers.
 
Moore stresses this is not a "license." The ID card would last a lifetime, he says, and while it has historically been issued at no charge, the state could charge $2 per boater to help offset rising costs. State-approved boating-safety courses typically cost $25.
 
"We seem to have pretty good support from around the state," Moore says. "Our surveys - and we've conducted several over the last 10 years - have shown 75- to 90-percent support from registered boaters. So it seems like a no-brainer."