Be an educated boater: Know and follow the rules of the water
Nothing signals summer in Western New York like boating. From the Erie Basin Marina to fishing in the Niagara River or cruising down the Erie Canal, Western New York offers an abundance of waterways that provide outstanding recreational opportunities for boating enthusiasts. Safety on the water is something no boater should take for granted. Just like there are “rules of the road” for vehicles, there are “rules of the waterways” that govern the safe maneuvering of boats. I encourage all recreational boaters to know the risks, learn the rules and be prepared before taking the helm this season.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were more than 4,000 boating accidents, including 758 deaths, in 2011. New York state requires completion of an eight-hour boater safety course and taking a proctored exam for people 10 – 18 years old who operate a motorboat and people 14 years and older who operate a personal water craft.
State law also requires that any partially or wholly motor-driven boat operated on NYS waters must be registered with the department of motor vehicles. Register your boat at any one of the Erie County Auto Bureaus by completing a boat registration/title application (MV-82-B) and statement of transaction for sales tax.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Erie County Sheriff’s deputies have the authority to stop your vessel and board your boat to ensure registration compliance and that all safety equipment rules and regulations are being followed. Part of the inspection is having the proper safety equipment on board: navigation lights, a sound signaling device, emergency flares and life jackets for everyone on board. You should know it is the law that children younger than 12 must wear a life jacket while boating, as well as everyone who operates or rides a PWC. Lack of knowledge of the rules is not an acceptable answer for a violation.
Proper documentation is required, whether you cross the border by land or sea. All boaters and passengers must have proper identification: an enhanced driver license, passport book or card or Nexus pass. Upon entering international waters, all vessels must register with the appropriate customs agency: U.S. to Canada 1-888-826-7277 or Canada to U.S. 1-888-523-BOAT.
Always boat responsibly; don’t mix drinking and boating. Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.
The Erie County clerk’s office is pleased to offer boaters “The New York State Boater’s Guide,” a handbook containing current registration, operation and safety information for the prudent mariner. Please contact the clerk’s office at 858-7754, or email your request to ErieCountyClerkOffice@erie.gov to request your copy.