Section IV - Boating Safety Education Programs

The Safety Education Unit has two primary objectives to support the Department's mission:

  To provide accessible boating safety education for youths and adults

  To educate and protect youth operators by developing and distributing boating and aquatic safety material to California schools

The Department relies on partnerships with several organizations (educational institutions, aquatic centers, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons) to provide boating safety education. The Department provides educational institutions with free course materials on boating and aquatic safety information. Aquatic centers that offer on-the-water safety education are eligible for Department grants and scholarships. Last year, these partnerships provided 681,000 individuals with boating safety education.

This section contains the following subsections:
A. Educational Outreach to School-Age Children C. Public Information Education Through Pamphlets
B. Educational Outreach to the General Public D. Abandoned Watercraft Removal Program

A. Educational Outreach to School-Age Children


The Department developed the AquaSMART curriculum to educate school-age children about water safety. The course is a three-part series for K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 grades. Course materials cover a variety of topics involving boating and aquatic safety. Nearly 500,000 elementary school students benefited from the AquaSMART education programs in 1999.

The newly-released AquaSMART Boating program for high school students 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. In 1999, a total of 25,000 high school students were educated using the AquaSMART boating program.

Poster Contest

Nearly 6,000 students participated in the Department's seventh annual poster contest, Safe and Wise Water Ways, in 1999. Students in the K-8 grade levels are invited to submit original artwork depicting aquatic and boating safety themes. One winner from each grade level is selected and featured on the Department's annual calendar poster. Corporate sponsors contribute to the success of this program by providing awards for the winners. The participating students become water wise and help others stay safe by sharing their safety lessons through the medium of art.

Interactive Tools

The Department lends two interactive robotic boats, SeaMore and Sea Lily, to boating safety organizations and marine law enforcement agencies. The robots communicate boating safety information to children.

B. Educational Outreach to the General Public

Aquatic Center Grant Program

The Department provides grant monies to aquatic centers throughout the state to enhance their programs. Grants can be used either for scholarships or for the purchase of equipment to be used in boating and education classes. This grant program allows the Department to increase the number of boaters who receive hands-on boating safety training.

Aquatic centers, operated by universities, cities, counties, and nonprofit organizations, provide on-the-water boating safety education in kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, power boating, sailing, windsurfing, and personal watercraft operation. These programs target university students, the general public, persons with disabilities, and disadvantaged youths.

During the 1998/99 fiscal year, the Department allocated $590,000 in grants to 29 aquatic centers, which then provided nearly 120,000 individuals with hands-on aquatic and boating education.

Home Study Course

The Department provides a 64-page booklet to the public called the California Boating Safety Course. This course is designed for home study, allowing readers to progress at their own pace. This comprehensive course covers State and federal boating law, rules of the road, boat handling, required and recommended equipment, navigational aids, and other topics. The course contains an optional exam to be completed and forwarded to the Department for grading. Those who pass the course are awarded with certificates that are recognized by many insurance companies for boat insurance discounts. In 1999, a total of 30,000 home study education course materials were distributed to the general public.

National Safe Boating Week

Each year, the President and the Governor proclaim the week before Memorial Day as National Safe Boating Week. The Department organizes a number of boating safety events during this week designed not only to promote safe boating, but also to promote the fun of boating. Activities featured during this week include:

  Boating fairs featuring contests to win life jackets

  Safety promotional product giveaways

  Boating demonstrations

  Highlights of annual boating accident statistics

  News releases featuring boating safety tips

  Interviews with the media

Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

Outdoor Media Campaign

The education unit also advertises safety messages through an outdoor media campaign. The Department uses permanent and mobile billboards on key waterways to promote boating safety throughout the boating season and during holiday weekends. Taking the message directly to boaters, colorful oversized "all-weather" posters adorn launch ramps, fuel docks, and marina and park entrances, reminding boaters to wear a life jacket. In conjunction with the California Coastal Commission's Adopt-a-Beach Program, the Department also placed safety messages on refuse barrels located on docks and in picnic areas.

Radio Message Campaign

In conjunction with the Department's outdoor media campaign, the Department developed a statewide radio campaign which contains a myriad of safety tips and highlights the following:

  The importance of wearing life jackets

  The dangers of mixing alcohol and boating

  River safety

  The dangers of horseplay on PWC

  Overall "know before you go" boating message that combines general boating safety preparedness with a message reminding boaters to be environmentally responsible.

The campaign runs from mid-May through October and targets California's top ten boating accident areas. Over thirty radio stations across the State air safety messages reminding boaters to "Boat Smart from the Start."

Televised Message Campaign

In 1999, the Department produced a television PSA on the dangers of mixing alcohol and boating. It was made available statewide via satellite. At the same time, two other PSAs—one on maintaining a proper lookout and the other on the importance of wearing life jackets—were produced for distribution in 2000.

C. Public Information Education Through Pamphlets

In 1999, the Department distributed 1.2 million copies of boating safety literature to the public. The Department's public information unit publishes and distributes more than 50 different boating safety publications. The publications cover a variety of topics emphasizing boating safety on California waterways. Materials focus on subjects such as key safety issues for individual waterways, required equipment, and operational laws. In 1999, to further enhance safety during whitewater activities, the Department added guides to the Kern and Smith Rivers to the assortment of river guides that are made available to boaters.

The unit mails these publications directly to individuals and provides various organizations with materials for distribution. Department representatives also attend numerous safety fairs and boat shows, distributing literature and answering questions. Currently, the Department of Motor Vehicles mails safety brochures with each new vessel registration and each renewal.

D. Abandoned Watercraft Removal Program

As part of its commitment to provide clean, safe and enjoyable recreational boating in California, the Department administers a program for removal of abandoned watercraft and substantial navigational hazards from California navigable waterways. Specifically, grant funds can be used by public agencies for the removal, storage and/or disposal of these navigational hazards. In 1999, the Department granted 6 public agencies $284,600 to remove 90 abandoned vessels and 22 other substantial hazards to navigation.