Virginia Boating Safety: New Required Operator Licenses and Education

  • April 27, 2009
  • Blog

Summary by: Robert L. Mertig

As summer approaches, it’s important to be aware of recent changes in the boating laws in Virginia pertaining to the operation of personal water craft (PWC) such as Jet Skis and motorboats. These changes include a schedule of required licenses and boating safety instruction that begin to take effect this summer. Over the next few years, eventually all users of PWC will be required to have licenses and take courses to obtain these licenses.

By July 1, 2009, all operators younger than 21 and are operating a PWC of 10 horsepower or more will be required to have a license. If you have a PWC like this and are in this age group, you should sign up now for a class, so you get your license before the summer boating season.

As shown below, certain age groups are required to have licenses each year for the next few years, until by July 1, 2013, all operators of motorboats of 10 horsepower or more will be required to be licensed. There are some exceptions, as noted below.

The purpose of the required classes and licenses is to have fewer accidents and fatalities in the future, and to help fund better enforcement of the laws governing the operation of motorboats and PWC on our tidal and inland bodies of water, so that these waters will be safer for all users.

Below are the official Boating Safety Education Requirements from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries:

Virginia Boating Safety Education Requirement

In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law to establish a boating safety education compliance requirement. This requirement does not apply to law enforcement officers while engaged in their official duties. The requirement for boating safety education is phased-in over several years and applies to all PWC operators and operators of motorboats of 10hp and greater according to the following schedule:

1. PWC operators 20 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2009;

2. PWC operators 35 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2010;

3. PWC operators 50 years of age or younger and motorboat operators 20 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2011;

4. All PWC operators, regardless of age, and motorboat operators 30 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2012;

5. Motorboat operators 40 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2013;

6. Motorboat operators 45 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2014;

7. Motorboat operators 50 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2015;

8. All motorboat operators, regardless of age, shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2016.

A person shall be considered in compliance with the requirement for boating safety education if he/she meets one or more of the following provisions:

1. Completes and passes a boating safety education course that is approved by NASBLA and accepted by the Department;

2. Passes an equivalency exam;

3. Possesses a valid license to operate a vessel issued to maritime personnel by the United States Coast Guard or a marine certificate issued by the Canadian government or possesses a Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card;

4. Possesses a temporary operator’s certificate;

5. Possesses a rental or lease agreement from a motorboat rental or leasing business, which lists the person as the authorized operator of the motorboat, and has also completed the Dockside Safety Checklist;

6. Operates the motorboat under onboard direct supervision of a person who meets the compliance requirement;

7. Is a non-resident, is temporarily using the waters of Virginia for a period not to exceed 90 days, and meets any applicable boating safety education requirements of the state of residency, or possesses a Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card;

8. Has assumed operation of the motorboat due to the illness or physical impairment of the initial operator, and is returning the motorboat to shore in order to provide assistance or care for the operator;

9. Is registered as a commercial fisherman pursuant to the Code of Virginia or is under the onboard direct supervision of the commercial fisherman while operating the commercial fisherman’s boat.

© 2009 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries – Web Policy – WAI-A Compliant Source: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/education/boating-safety-education-requirement.asp

About the Author: Bob is claims consultant in the Petersburg, Virginia branch of the personal injury law firm Allen & Allen. A former insurance adjuster, Bob works under the supervision of Attorney Paul Hux to assist clients in settling their personal injury claims.