OLYMPIA — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and boating safety leaders urge boaters to take a boating safety course and get their card this winter.

Boater safety education is required by law in Washington state. In 2011, all boaters under age 35 are required to take a boating safety course and get their boater safety card. By 2014, the safety course and card will be required for everyone born after 1954.

“Every year an average of 25 people die in boating accidents in Washington and many more are injured and boats are damaged or destroyed,” said Lake Stevens Police Chief Randy Celori, who serves as chair of the State Parks Boating Safety Advisory Council.

“Boater safety education can help prevent boaters from getting into an accident and increase their chances of survival if they are involved in an accident,” said Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict, also a member of the Boating Safety Council.

There are many ways to take a boater education course. Boaters can choose to take it in a classroom, online, hands-on or through a home study booklet. There also is an equivalency exam for experienced boaters. Once the boater has completed the course or exam, he or she needs to complete an application and pay just $10 for a Boater Safety Card that is good for a lifetime.

“Currently, more than 68,000 boaters have their Boater Safety Education Card,” said George Harris, Northwest Marine Trade Association president. Within the next three years, State Parks boating program staff estimate that more than 200,000 additional boaters will need to take a boating safety class and get the card to meet the legal requirement.

The best time to take a course and get the card is during the winter. More classes are offered and boaters have time before boating season opens to complete the class, take the test and order the card. Boaters cited for not having the card face an $87 fine.

To apply for the boater card or for more information on safety classes, visit www.boatered.org or call 360-902-8555.

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