Suffolk executive signs boater safety bill into law

TIM KELLY PHOTO | In a year boaters such as these enjoying Peconic Bay on a summer evening will be required to carry proof of taking a water safety course.

County Executive Steve Bellone signed a landmark boater’s safety law Thursday, setting in motion the countdown to the law’s implementation a year from now.

The bill, “Suffolk’s Safer Waterways Act,” received unanimous support from the County Legislature on Sept. 13, would require all Suffolk residents to pass an approved boater’s safety course before operating some pleasure boats in Suffolk waters. The law, which takes effect in Oct. 2013, would not apply to rowboats, canoes or kayaks.

The law includes penalties of up to $250 for a first offense, rising to $500 for a second offense. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

Some critics questioned the law’s main provision, noting that non-resident boaters would not be required to obtain a safety certificate. The concern is that boaters with the least amount of knowledge  of local waters would be exempt from the safety training requirement.

Others suggest the county may have overstepped its authority and that boating regulations are a state matter.

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