Weekend marks beginning of boating season

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Memorial Day weekend marks the starts of the 2014 boating season and Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard wants boaters to remember safety comes first.

New this year, water vessel operators born on or after May 1, 1996 and at least 10 years old must have a boating safety certificate issued by the New York State Office of Parks, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary or the United States Power Squadron. A deadly boating accident downstate helped push the new legislation though.

The most common violation is an expired registration. You need a registration for any vessel that’s propelled fully or partly by a motor. If you operate a personal water craft like a jet ski you also need a safe boater certification.

Reckless boating is also common. Children can’t sit on the front of a boat when it’s in motion. The violation could result in a misdemeanor charge.

Officials say if you’re 100 feet from the shore you can’t go faster than five miles per hour. The sheriff says they’re not out there looking to ticket people but they want to educate boaters.

Boating alcohol laws pretty much mirror driving laws. You can’t operate a boat with an alcohol content .08 or above. A drunk boating conviction doesn’t carry over to a driving conviction but it could still be on your record. Canadian laws are zero tolerance. No open containers or consumption on board.

Speeding isn’t a common violation. Speed limits are posted in some areas but otherwise there isn’t really a speed limit posted on open waters. Boaters are supposed to use their common sense and skills. If you cause damage to another boat you are liable.

Essentials to have on your boat are life jackets for everyone, at least three up to date flares, an anchor with a 50 foot line, a working horn, lights, and registration. Children under 12 must wear a life jacket.

The Erie County Sheriffs have two 31 foot marine units patrolling 100 miles of shoreline. Because Buffalo waters are so close to Canada waters, boaters might see more patrols on the water. The sheriffs enforce state laws, while the coast guard enforces federal laws.

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