Girardi | Keese

California Joins a Majority of States in Requiring Boat Licenses

"The problem is, people go out on a waterway, and they think, you know, they're on vacation. [...] They're relaxing. Sometimes they're drinking alcohol. And they just don't associate potential dangers with being on vacation."


The quote above is of Bill Monning, the California state lawmaker who introduced legislation that requires boat licenses in the spirit of the driver's license. As per National Public Radio, all boaters will need to obtain licenses by 2025.

For now, come 2018, people under 20 will need to be licensed in order to captain a boat.

Boat License Requirements

What will it take to get your boating license?

  • Take a class (in person or online)
  • Pass an examination
  • Pay the $10 fee

The good news is that once you've obtained your boating license, after following the steps above, a license apparently remains valid throughout the license holder's life.

Boat licensure, as compared to car licensure, appears to be less onerous or demanding of a process, but there's probably a good reason for that: Far fewer people use boats than cars, far fewer people out on the water on any given day than out driving in Los Angeles, as an example.

That said, Sen. Monning introduced this legislation for a reason.

More Boat Accidents in California than Almost Anywhere Else

With the exception of Florida, according to NPR, California leads the way with the number of boat accidents every year. California's population and its miles of coastline likely skew the numbers a bit, but as Claire Trageser reports, in 2016 seven people died per 100,000 boats in California. (Although Trageser claims this is a "fairly low boat accident fatality rate.")

Boat licensure - with its education and examination requirements - would presumably cut down on the number of boat accidents and number of injuries and deaths every year.

Good judgment, however, will remain the biggest key to reducing accidents. As in driving a car, boaters should maintain reasonable speeds, keep a safe distance from other boats, and avoid boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

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