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GUEST EDITORIAL: South Carolina House halts Boating Safety Legislation

Lexington County, SC - 02/07/2021 - Today is a sad day for the boating safety-minded public. House Bill 3103 was voted down on the floor of the House today. Instead of approving the legislation, it was tabled and sent to the Judiciary Committee, essentially killing the bill. The bill would have required only persons born after June 30, 2006, to complete a Boating Safety Course before operating a boat or jet ski over 15HP. This course is offered free online at The BoatUS Foundation's website and it is approved by SCDNR at no cost to the Department or the person taking the course.

The proposed new law would not affect anyone born before June 30, 2006, so none of us older boaters would be affected.

As far as the cost to implement the proposed new law, SCDNR has a system already in place. No new software would be needed. SCDNR already tracks this information. Our current law requires persons sixteen years or younger to take a Boating Safety Course before operating a Boat or Jet Ski over 15HP without being accompanied by an adult and currently, there is no training requirement for persons 17 years or older.

South Carolina has over 300 miles of coastline yet we are the only coastal state that does not have mandatory boater education. We have over 500,000 registered watercraft. That is one in ten for each person in the state. We have more recreational watercraft than Texas and we have more recreational watercraft than all other southern states except Florida.

The Department of Natural Resources recently conducted a series of public meetings all over the state and the number one request from the public was a requirement for Boating Safety Courses. SCDNR backs this legislation along with Boat and Jet-Ski Manufactures Associations.

At the State House

Representative Micah Caskey, Lexington County District 89, spearheaded the attack on the proposed new law Thursday on the floor of the House. Representative Caskey said he had concerns about the cost to the Department of Natural Resources on implementing the legislation.

The following is my opinion and is not the position of this forum.

With the ever-increasing number of Boats on our waterways, is it asking too much that you least know how to drive one?

What Representative Caskey failed to say, or he did not know, was the Department of Natural Resources already has a system in place to track persons that have taken a Boating Safety Course. This is not the first time I have seen this ruse used to defeat a bill. It is very common to interject questions when the person doing so has a dislike for a bill but will not say so.

I would have preferred a stronger law that would have required hands-on testing for all boaters with an exception for boat owners that have owned a boat for say 10 years or more. However, a proposal that would have required testing for all boaters with or without exceptions would never pass the general assembly. This bill is by far not perfect and any attempt to make it more stringent would have been met will mountains of opposition. Please understand that any new law that cannot get through the General Assembly is a waste of time. For now, in this day and time, this new law would be a good starting point.

Randall Smith

Chairman SCCVC Boating Safety Citizens’ Advisory Committee

EDITOR"S MOTE: All Guest Editorials or Letters to the Editor are the opinion or thoughts of the named author. They may or may not reflect the thoughts or beliefs of the owner, editor, or staff members of The Lexington Ledger. To find out how you can submit your own, go to and navigate to the OPINION page.

CAPTION: Drew Smith was killed when a boater under the influence hit he and his father Randall while they were night fishing on Lake Murray. Since that day, Drew's parents have been tireless supports of boating safety laws in South Carolina.


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