Spring Aboard: DEM Environmental Police join national campaign to promote boating education

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is teaming up with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) this month as part of the Spring Aboard – Take a Boating Education Coursecampaign to encourage boaters to enroll in a boating education course. Spring Aboard promotes boater safety education before the kickoff of the boating season. An informed and knowledgeable boat operator is much more likely to recognize hazardous conditions on the water and avoid a boating mishap.

“DEM is working in partnership with state boating officials throughout the country once again this year to encourage boaters to ‘Spring Aboard’ and take a safety course,” said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, Boating Safety Coordinator for DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement in a press release today. “All boaters have a duty to be responsible for themselves and for those on their vessel. While you’re getting your boat readied for the water this spring, prepare yourself for a safe boating season by taking a boater education course. With the wide variety of classroom and online offerings, there’s a program to fit every boater’s schedule.”

Classroom courses are offered through local boating safety organizations, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons. In addition, DEM offers an online study course for boaters who would like the convenience of studying at home. Boaters using this online option must pass a proctored exam to receive certification. For a list of boating education courses, visit www.dem.ri.gov.    

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in accidents where the level of operator education was known, 81 percent of boating deaths occurred on vessels where the boat operator never received boating education instruction. There are nearly 40,000 registered boats in Rhode Island. In 2018, DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement responded to 36 boating accidents; these incidents resulted in one fatality and 13 injuries.

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“Taking a boating education course is the first thing everyone should do before they go boating. These courses teach you about navigation rules, laws that must be followed in your state, and provide safety checklists that will go a long way in helping you and your loved ones have a fun and enjoyable boating season,” said Mark Brown, President of NASBLA, which is the lead organization for the campaign in the press release. “Whether you are a first-time boater or have years of experience, there is always more to learn when taking to the water. Taking a boating education course is one of the best things you can do to prevent accidents on the water.”

Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels. In Rhode Island, successful completion of a boating safety course is required for all boaters born after January 1, 1986, who operate a boat with a motor greater than 10 horsepower, and for all operators of personal watercraft regardless of age.

The annual Spring Aboard campaign is led by NASBLA, produced under a grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, and supported by state, federal, and nonprofit partners. It is open to participation by all states, territories, boating education organizations, instructors, and course providers. For more information, visit www.springaboard.org.

For more information on Rhode Island boating laws, visit DEM’s website. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for more information on boating in Rhode Island as well as other timely updates.