Boater safety requirement extends to 40-year-olds and younger

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Starting this year, residents 40 years old or younger must carry a Washington State Boater Education Card while operating a powerboat in state waters.

It's safe to say the requirement will surprise a shipload of people despite six years of publicity.

The requirement has been phasing in since it was endorsed by the Washington Legislature in 2005 to help curb the rise of boating accidents in ever-more-crowded waters.

Through Wednesday, 99,806 people have completed a Washington boater education course since 2008 when the requirement took effect.

That indicates most operators have yet to take the course, considering that Washington has more than 234,500 registered vessels.

Last year, 271 citations, at $87 a pop, and 365 warnings were issued to non-complying boat operators in the age groups required to have a boater education card.

Next year the requirement will apply to people age 50 and younger operating boats powered by motors of 15 horsepower or more.

Boaters aren't being singled out. The requirement is patterned after hunter education programs enacted in the 1950s.

Boaters can satisfy the requirements by taking a course in a classroom, online or by purchasing the state's home-study course. The options are spelled out on the Washington Parks and Recreation website.

Classroom courses vary in length and cost, depending on the course provider.