MONTHLY COLUMN: Be an educated boater – Know and follow the “Rules of the Water”

Modified: June 10, 2022 5:47pm

June 10, 2022

Do not to leave safety at the dock this summer

Summer is here and nothing signals summer in Erie County like boating.  Whether you are visiting the Erie Basin Marina, fishing in the Niagara River, cruising down the Erie Canal or motoring to Sturgeon Point, Western New York offers an abundance of waterways providing outstanding recreational opportunities for boating enthusiasts. 

Observing boating safety precautions is essential for all boaters, whether you are fishing, sailing, kayaking, or motoring.  Just as there are “rules of the road” that govern the safe flow of traffic for vehicles, there are “rules of the waterways” that govern the safe maneuvering of all watercraft. 

With the legislation of Brianna’s Law, everyone operating a motorized vessel will be required to take a safe boating course and carry a safety certificate by January 1, 2025. This year, all operators who were born on or after January 1, 1988 must obtain certification, including those operating personal watercrafts, such as a jet ski or wave runner. According to research conducted by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), 70 percent of all boating fatalities occurred when the operator had not taken a boating safety class.   A list of an approved Boater Safety Course near you can be found at

State law also requires that any motorized boat, operated on NYS waters must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Having your current registration on board is required. I encourage water enthusiasts to take this opportunity to keep a portion of registration fees local by registering your boat and its trailer at any one of our Auto Bureau offices located throughout Erie County.  Proof of identity, date of birth and proof of ownership are required to register a boat.   For additional information, please contact the Erie County Auto Bureau Outreach Center at 716-858-8864 or visit us at

Under New York law no one may operate a vessel on the waters of NYS while impaired or intoxicated through the consumption of either alcohol or drugs. Both impairs one’s ability to function properly and is a factor in 30 percent of all boating related fatalities.

One last safety tip, and possibly the most important, is to always wear a life jacket and make sure your passengers do as well. In boating accidents, 7 out of every 8 victims that drown weren’t wearing a life jacket. Just wear it! A life jacket will help ensure you and everyone on board returns home safely.

The Erie County Clerk’s Office is pleased to offer the “The New York State Boater’s Guide,” a convenient handbook, containing registration, operation and safety information for the prudent mariner.  To obtain your copy, call the Clerk’s office at 716-858-8864 or e-mail us at

Everyone should do their part to make sure the waters are safe.  Your time on the water should be enjoyable for you, your family and friends. I hope you enjoy the summer boating season by boating smart and boating safe!