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Jul 16 2012

Virginia Boating Legislation Takes Effect

Published by at 9:51 am under Boating,Boats

virginia boatingWhile the Lateral Line HQ is in Maryland, we do a lot of fishing in Virginia. While we had heard about the boaters safety course requirement, we did not know exactly what it meant. We did some research and throught since we did it we would share it.

Virginia enacted a law in 2007 that established requirements for boating safety education. A main component of that law was the requirement that all Virginia boaters would have to take a Virginia boating safety course, pass an exam, and hold a license verifying it. The law also required boaters from out of state to meet the same requirements unless they held a suitable license from another state or province.

The 2007 law is robust and includes numerous changes to the preceding law. Due to the sheer amount of change, Virginia chose to phase the law in over a ten-year period, from 2007 to 2016. There are pros and cons to this approach. The benefit is that boaters have the opportunity to adjust to the new requirements. The downside, however, is that five-plus years after the fact, it is easy to lose sight of upcoming changes, and these changes don’t always receive enough awareness. Failure to comply can incur stiff penalties, and not knowing is not a valid excuse.

For many boaters, the requirement to complete a boating safety course went into effect on July 1, 2011. At this point, all personal watercraft (PWC) operators ages 50 and under and all boat operators ages 20 and younger had to have completed the course and be holding the license. On July 1, 2012, the next phase of that regulation went into effect. Now, all PWC operators regardless of age had to have the license, and all boat operates ages 30 and under had to have the license.

It is important to note that any person who was older than 50 years on July 1, 2011 will never be required to take the exam. These people are grandfathered in. All other people are or will be required to take the exam. Exams are available locally. Scheduled testing does occur, but many testing sites allow walk-ins. In addition, the Virginia law allows people to test online. The online services must meet specific guidelines, and you will find a Virginia seal of approval on all valid sites.

Virginia also provides guidelines for the amount that these services can charge, and if a person fails the exam, the retest is included free by law. When the person passes the exam, they receive the license from the state of Virginia in the mail within a couple of weeks. However, the person is automatically approved to boat at this point, and if they want to do so prior to the license arriving, they can print out a temporary version of the card from the service that administered the exam.

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