Section V

2000 Program Enhancements,
Initiatives, and New Laws

2000 California Boating Safety Report

New Laws


As of January 1, 2001, California law now requires children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket when aboard an underway vessel 26 feet in length or less.

Exceptions to this law include the operation of a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore, or between two moored boats.

Personal Watercraft and Water Skiers

As of January 1, 2001, every person on board a personal watercraft and any person on water skis, an aquaplane or similar device must wear a Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V life jacket.

Exceptions to this law include a person aboard a personal watercraft or being towed behind a vessel, if that person is a performer in a professional exhibition, or preparing to participate in an official regatta, marine parade, tournament or exhibition. In lieu of wearing a Type I, II, III or V Coast Guard-approved life jacket, any person engaged in slalom skiing on a marked course, or any person engaged in barefoot, jump or trick water skiing may elect to wear a wetsuit designed for the activity and labeled by the manufacturer as a water ski wetsuit. A Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket must be carried in the tow vessel for each skier electing to wear a wetsuit.

All Vessels

As of January 1, 2001, any person convicted of one moving violation while operating a vessel shall be ordered by the court to complete and pass a boating safety course approved by the Division of Boating and Waterways. Proof of completion and passage of the course must be submitted to the court within seven months of the time of the conviction.

Life Jacket Use

  The Department continues the Life Jacket Partner Program and the T-Shirt Program aimed at increasing the use of life jackets by children.

  The Department continues the Dairy Queen and Carl's Jr. program. Children wearing a life jacket are rewarded with these coupons given by marine law enforcement officials on the water.

  The Department continues a radio campaign promoting the use of life jackets. This safety message is being heard on radio stations throughout California and targets boaters in high accident areas.

  The Department continues its outdoor media campaign, placing billboards in areas where accidents are most prevalent. The billboards remind boaters about the importance of wearing a life jacket while boating.

  The Department produced a new 30-second public safety announcement for television that stresses the importance of wearing a life jacket.

  The Department is encouraging the use of life jackets at safety fairs and boat shows throughout the State, through the annual Safe and Wise Water Ways poster contest for children, and at National Safe Boating Week events.

Personal Watercraft

  The Department continues development of a new PWC Practical Handling Course. This course focuses on PWC operation and safe boat handling. The curriculum is designed for operators of all ages and will be available to the general public. It is designed to be incorporated into existing safety programs offered by organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, marine law enforcement agencies, and aquatic centers. This course should be available in Summer 2001.

  The Department continues to place a 60-second radio message highlighting the dangers of "horseplay" while operating a PWC, which airs on radio stations throughout California.

  The Department produced a 30-second PSA on the subject of personal watercraft safety for distribution to television stations statewide this summer.

Youth Operator Safety

  This year, the AquaSMART Boating program for high school students continued to be distributed to schools throughout California. This course incorporates key safety concerns identified by accident statistics. Four types of boating are addressed: personal watercraft, powerboating, sailing, and paddling. The course is available to schools, aquatic centers, and youth organizations.

  The curriculum for youth programs includes information on the dangers of alcohol and drug use, especially when boating. Zero tolerance is emphasized for all persons engaged in aquatic recreation.

  The Department will continue to publicize the law requiring operators to be at least 16 years of age to operate most vessels alone.


  The Department's radio campaign continues to promote the dangers of drinking alcohol while boating. This safety message is airing on radio stations throughout California and targets boaters in areas with the highest accident rates.

  The Department produced a 30-second PSA on the dangers of mixing alcohol and boating which has been distributed to television stations statewide.

  The Department continues to notify law enforcement agencies statewide about alcohol-related fatalities and encourage them to strengthen their educational and enforcement efforts in this area. The Department reinforces this message at all of its law enforcement training classes.

Improved Internet Access

  The AquaSMART Internet education pages ( were developed to supplement the Department's AquaSMART curriculum series. The design is bright and content addresses boating safety in a fun manner, as the webpage is targeted primarily at children exposed to the AquaSMART curriculum series. The secondary audience includes teachers, parents, and other boaters. A link to the Department's homepage is provided for persons seeking more detailed boating safety information.

Other Safety Enhancements

  The Department produced a short video on general boating safety laws, which was completed in March, 2001.

  The Department produced a public safety announcement for television, highlighting the importance of keeping a proper lookout while boating, which will be distributed to television stations statewide this summer.

  The Department is producing a brochure promoting the importance of taking hands-on boating courses to improve safety on the water. The brochure will identify aquatic centers throughout the State where a variety of boating courses are provided. The brochure will be finished in Fall 2001.

  The Department maintains its radio message promoting safe boating during whitewater activities which airs on radio stations throughout the State. To further enhance river safety, the Department offers an assortment of river guides. The Department continues to warn boaters about hazardous water conditions on California's rivers, especially during spring and early summer when water levels are high from snow pack run-off.

  The Department continues its "know before you go" radio message that combines general boating safety preparedness with a message reminding boaters to be environmentally responsible.

  The Department continues work on a new water skiing safety video. The updated version will include not only traditional water skiing activities, but also wake boarding, knee boarding, inner tubing, and air chair activities. This project should be completed in Spring 2002.

  The Department has increased outreach efforts to anglers by placing articles and messages in fishing publications throughout the state.

  The Law Enforcement unit continues to conduct the Accident Reconstruction Course on the water, providing staged accidents for reconstruction by students. Many law enforcement officers believe this course helps them reconstruct accidents more accurately.

California Division of Boating and Waterways, May 2001