Currently, there is no age requirement for boaters in Florida. Florida state law only mandates that those born after January 1, 1988, complete a safe boating course if piloting a vessel of more than 10 horsepower. Also, Florida state law does not allow a person under the age of 14 to operate a personal watercraft (e.g., Jet Ski).
State Senator Jeremy Ring (Democrat – Margate) has proposed Senate Bill 644 that will hopefully, at a minimum, get this important issue discussed on the state government level. Senator Ring’s Bill would increase the age of operating a personal watercraft to 16 instead of 14. The Bill also takes away the exemption of having a boating safety identification card if the operator is accompanied in the vessel by a person who holds a valid identification card or is 18 or older.
Although the new Bill does not specifically address the issue of no age requirement for boaters, the Bill should at least spark a discussion on that topic as well. Similar to driving on the road, there are rules and regulations that all safe boaters must adhere to so that everyone can safely enjoy a day out on the water. Conditions can change in minutes, if not seconds, while out on the water. Inexperienced or young boaters often do not have the knowledge, skill, or understanding to react to these changes (or to foresee them coming).
Boating should be a fun and SAFE experience for all those on the water. Properly training and monitoring younger boaters is especially important in order to keep it that way.