According to a legislative report by the state’s Advisory Panel on Boating Safety, the primary cause of boating deaths nationally is drowning, with 543 in 2009, of which 385 were not wearing lifejackets, usually in rough weather or on hazardous water.
Changes to Texas laws targeting boating safety include: mandatory boating safety education certification for anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993 to operate a vessel with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or a wind-blown vessel measuring more than 14 feet in length. While all boaters are encouraged to take boating safety education, those born before Sept. 1, 1993, are exempt from required certification.
Previously, only 13- to 17-year olds were required to complete a boating safety course to operate a vessel without adult supervision.
Texas’ state-approved boater education course is available as a one-day, classroom training, as a home-study course or as an online course at www.boat-ed.com . The course takes about six hours to complete. Costs range from $13 for classroom course to about $25 for the home-study course. Information about boater education, including schedules of upcoming classroom courses, is available at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/boater_education/ .
Boaters falling under the boater education requirement will be required to carry a valid ID and documentation of having taken and passed a boater education course. Failure to meet the requirements is a Class C misdemeanor, and violators have 90 days to complete a boater education course to have the charges dismissed.
The 82nd Texas Legislature during its regular session clarified the definition of a vessel to encompass such craft as standup paddle craft, kayaks and canoes. In Texas public waters everyone onboard a vessel that measures less than 26-feet in length must have a life jacket available and kids under 13 must wear one.