Boat operators would have to take a safety course under proposed bill – WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group of lawmakers and activists are working to make Minnesota’s lakes safer.

“We just want to make sure that, you know, people kind of know the rules of the lake and do their best to protect each other,” DFL representative Erin Koegel said.

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Minnesota does not currently require any safety or education courses for adult operators. Koegel and others have drafted a bill that would change that for people around age 35 and under.

Children between the ages of 12 and 17 must pass a boating safety exam to drive one.

Tim Sonenstahl, co-owner of Wayzata Bait and Tackle, thinks it’s a good idea.

“A lot of people here carelessly drive boats,” he said. “You need a driver’s license to drive a car. It’s as dangerous as a car, you know, probably more dangerous because you’re in the water.

(credit: CBS)

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Boating safety and conservation advocates support the legislation. Jeff Forester, executive director of Minnesota Lakes and River Advocates, can easily cite several examples of unsafe behavior, including getting too close to buoys, not using life jackets, and getting too close to other boaters.

“Some of these bass boats can go 70 miles per hour,” Forester said. “They are powerful watercraft on our lakes now.”

The Minnesota is the second most registered boat in the United States, with nearly a six-person boat. Among the hundreds of thousands of boats, at least 10,000 have been newly registered for a year.

“We really need to make sure we’re introducing new people to boating, but making sure we’re doing it in a safe way and respecting other people on the lake,” Koegel said.

If the bill is passed, the law will come into force in the summer of 2024.

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In Wisconsin, teens 16 and older must take a safety course to operate a boat by themselves.

Denise W. Whigham