Boaters reminded of new lifejacket law

ALBANY - The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reminds boaters a new state law took effect Nov. 1. The law requires all boaters traveling New York waters on recreational watercraft less than 21 feet in length - including motorboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats and sailboats - must wear a personal flotation device through Saturday, May 1.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. David A. Paterson in August, was sought by OPRHP to address a troubling rash of fatalities involving off-season boaters on small boats who were not wearing PFDs. In recent years, roughly 25 percent of the state's boating fatalities occurred in the off season. In New York State, there were 21 boating fatalities in 2008, of which five occurred in cold water conditions, including an Oct. 19 Sullivan County incident in which three people died. In 2007, there were also 21 total fatalities, of which eight were in cold water conditions, including a May 4 Franklin County accident in which two people died.

Under the new law, each boat passenger must wear a securely-fastened, U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD of the appropriate size while the boat is under way that is, while the vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground. Boaters are subject to the law while on any lakes, rivers, streams and waters within the state that are not privately-owned. Violation of the law could result in a fine of $25-$100. Commercial boats and racing crew shells of organized rowing teams are not subject to the law.

In addition to the new requirement, PFDs must be worn year-round by all children younger than 12 years of age on any boat less than 65 feet in length, unless within a fully enclosed cabin; by anyone towed, such as water-skiers or wake-boarders; and while on board a personal watercraft. Otherwise, a PFD must be available for every passenger on board every vessel, including no-motorized watercraft such as canoes, kayaks and rowboats.

For more information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit www.nysparks.com.

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