Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday signed Brianna's Law requiring that ALL operators of motorized watercraft in New York State must eventually complete a state-approved boating safety course. That would include hundreds of out-of-state cruisers.
"People boating in New York waters will need to have a safety certificate, either from New York or one applicable to their home states," said Dan Keefe, public information officer for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation .
Kim Russo, director of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association, said she did not think the law would be too onerous for the estimated 300 "Loopers" who transit the Hudson River and Erie Canal each year.
"Depending on how they implement it, I don’t know that it will be a big deal for Loopers. New Jersey already requires a boating safety course, but for transients, they accept a certificate issued from the boater’s home state or a NASBLA approved course," Russo said. "For New York, it looks like the on-line providers currently include some of the more popular ones, so I don’t think compliance will be too challenging, and again, Loopers are already having to do this for New Jersey."
The law is named after Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old killed in a 2005 boating accident at Great South Bay on Long Island. Gina Lieneck, her mother, has lobbied lawmakers to pass a boater safety course bill ever since.
The requirement is being implement in steps. Because Loopers and cruisers southbound from New England tend to be over 55, most won't be affected for five years.
- In 2020, all motorboat operators born in 1993 or later will have to take the safety course.
- In 2021, it applies to those born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.
- In 2022, those born on or after Jan. 1, 1983.
- In 2024, those born on or after Jan. 1, 1978.
- In 2025, everyone regardless of age.
Failure to comply could result in a fine of between $100 and $250 under the new law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
The courses can be taken online or in person and last several hours, with costs ranging from free up to $30.
There are nearly 439,000 registered powerboats in New York State, according to the 2018 state Recreational Boating Report.
The law does not apply to operators of sailboats, kayaks, standup paddleboards, rowboats or canoes.
"Boating has become much more popular and our rules and our laws really have not kept pace with it," Cuomo said. "There should be a basic level of knowledge that you have before you're given the permission to go out there and operate a boat, and making a safety course mandatory is common sense. It protects the operator of the boat and everyone that operator could come into contact with, and it will make our waters safer. It took a horrific accident to make this situation real for people, but through this law Brianna is saving lives and her love lives on."
This story will be updated when New York authorities respond to Passagemaker inquiries.