New Law Requires Motorboat Safety Course

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A new law took effect January 1 that will eventually affect anyone who operates a motorized boat or motorized water vessel of any kind in waters in and around New York state, and Assemblyman Fred Thiele is getting the word out.

Thiele, of Sag Harbor, represents the First Assembly district, which encompasses the South Fork from just west of Hampton Bays, all the way east to Montauk Point, and includes Sag Harbor and Shelter Island. It is a district surrounded by water, where boating is a vital part of the culture.

The law is named after Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old who was killed in an accident when two boats collided late evening in Great South Bay, off of Bay Shore, in August 2005. According to The New York Times report at the time, the victim’s parents, Frank and Gina Lieneck both “sustained severe head and face trauma and were listed in critical condition.” Both parents survived, though Frank Lieneck suffered brain damage.

For the last few years, Gina Lieneck has been advocating for Brianna’s Law. Thiele was a co-sponsor of the law, which finally passed last year and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 5, close to eight years after Brianna Lieneck’s death.

Brianna’s Law ultimately will require that anyone who operates any type of motorized boat or motorized water craft must take an eight-hour boater safety course, for which they will receive a certificate. For 2020 and 2021, the law only applies to younger boaters, those born after January 1, 1993. Come January 1, 2022, that requirement will be expanded to all those born on or after January 1, 1988. By 2025, all operators of motor boats and motorized water craft will need to meet the requirement.

The course can be taken online or in person. It is administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. That office estimates that, by the time the law is fully implemented, over one million people will have taken the course.

Those who already have boating safety certificates issued by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron, or the U.S. Sailing Association do not have to take the course. Out-of-state residents who have boating safety certificates from their home states also will be exempt.

“No family should have to endure a loss like that of Brianna’s family. This new law provides for important safety measures to make our waterways safer and to help prevent future tragedies,” Thiele said in a statement last week.

Anyone who is required to take the course and is found operating a motorboat without a safety certificate is subject to a fine of between $100 and $250.

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