California Boaters Under 20 Now Need A License
At the start of this year, California made a big change for recreational boaters. For years, anyone could just hop on a boat and drive it without training. Now, the state is requiring boaters to get licenses.
The law will phase in slowly, targeting the youngest boaters first. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, everyone under 20 needs to get licenses. Each year, the age requirement will increase until all boaters need licenses by 2025.
So far, the state has received about 2,200, said Bria Miller, the California Boater Card program analyst. She said the application process is going smoothly so far.
"It's very simple, people haven't really had too many problems just being able to go online and input their information," she said.
It costs $10 to get a license, which lasts a lifetime. Applicants have to take a boating safety course and earn a certificate. They can then take a picture of the certificate with their phone and upload it, Miller said. The application can be found at californiaboatercard.com.
The new law does not apply to people who rent boats, or to people who pilot boats without motors.
California Boater Card Requirements Timeline
2018: Age 20 or younger
2019: 25 or younger
2020: 35 or younger
2021: 40 or younger
2022: 45 or younger
2023: 50 or younger
2024: 60 or younger
California is one of just five states ― besides Alaska, Arizona, South Dakota and Wyoming ― that currently does not require any license to boat, though some states only have requirements for people under 18, according to the American Boating Association.
Last year, California had more boating accidents than any other state besides Florida. That is likely in part because the state has one of the biggest coastlines in the county and is among the top five states for number of registered boats, according to data from the U.S. Coast Guard.
According to the Coast Guard, 77 percent of deaths last year occurred on boats where the operator did not receive any boating safety instruction.