Boating enthusiasts are signing up for safety classes in record numbers.
Roy Crittenden, a Dawson County resident and public affairs officer for U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla No. 29, said the classes are on track to break records this year.
"During 2012, 160 people completed the course that we offer Februarythorugh October, and we're on a path to breaking last year's record," he said. "Already this year, we've had 152 people successfully complete the class."
Crittenden said 70 percent of boating accidents involve a skipper who has never taken a boating safety course.
These numbers are definitely encouraging, and I am proud to see that so many are taking responsible steps to help make Georgia safe," said Gov. Nathan Deal. "Far too many tragedies have occurred as a result of boating under the influence and inadequate boater education. This is why last June, I vowed to work with the General Assembly to pass legislation in honor of Jake and Griffin Prince, who lost their lives last summer in a tragic accident. As I have said, if you are too drunk to drive an automobile, you are too drunk to drive a boat."
A new law Boating Under the Influence, signed on May 15 by Gov. Nathan Deal lowers the alcohol limit from .10 to .08 percent, the same for driving a car. And penalties are stiff.
Skippers are often unaware of maritime laws that hold them responsible not just for their own behavior on the water, but also for the behavior of all crew and passengers, Crittendon said.
"When an accident happens, the first place they look to place blame is on the skipper," he said.
According to the Handbook of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities, the new BUI law applies to anyone operating a boat, sailboat, personal watercraft (PC), water skis, sailboard, or similar device.
Penalties include loss of privilege to operate a boat or PWC until the offender's successful completion of an approved DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program. Violators also will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and/or prison time for up to one year.
Boating courses are offered once a month by Flotilla 29 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary and are held at the Coast Guard Auxiliary Operations Center, 6595 Lights Ferry Road, Flowery Branch, on the left near the entrance to Aqualand Marina. Each class is one day long and covers navigation, legal requirements of boating, operating your vessel safely, boating emergencies, state regulations, and enjoying watersports.
Successful completion of the course could result in a reduction in your boat's insurance premium, Crittendon said. The next class is scheduled for July 13.
For more information, contact Pat Lindsey, 770-271-4059 or firstname.lastname@example.org