In most states the legal driving age is a minimum of 16 years old, and even then it is only provisional. But what about in the world of powerboating? At what age do we deem boating to be too dangerous and irresponsible? Through no fault of their own, and more of the system in which they operated, the recent deaths of two 14 year-olds, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen of Tequesta have brought the issue to the forefront in Florida where boating is as common as driving.
After finding the boys’ capsized boat days later in Daytona Beach, Sen. Jeremy Ring, proposed a measure (SB 644) that would raise the minimum legal age to pilot a personal craft from 14 to 16. But in the grander scheme of things, the hope is to set the age requirement to 16 years old across the board for all boats and watercraft in an effort to avoid the tragedies of late. Since Florida currently has no age minimum set for piloting a boat, this bill will undoubtedly meet some opposition from people of all ages who’s lives are centered around the water and have the tradition of raising new generations with their feet already practically in the water from birth.
Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen tragically died in boating accident, but are more regulations really necessary?
The Personal Watercraft Industry Association supports the age increase, but the PWIA and NMMA are seeking clarification of the child operation provision in order to better establish the guidelines by which this bill will pass.
Hopefully, as Florida undergoes this process, they will find a conclusion that allows people their freedom on the water while still preventing tragedy from rearing its ugly head. Boating and the freedom it brings should not be governed by age or needless regulations.