License to drive
Make sure to get certified before hitting the water this summer
Staff Reports, Hartselle Enquirer
Hot weather and long days mean more and more people are spending time on the water.
But with the increase in boating activities during the summer months, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Police Division is reminding boaters about license requirements.
Alabama law requires anyone ages 12 or older who operates a motorized vessel – including a personal watercraft – on state waters to have an operator's license or certification. Non-residents have a 45-day grace period per calendar year before having to obtain an operator's license.
The Boating Safety Enhancement Act of 2001, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2002, changed the legal age to operate a vessel to 14 years old. Any licensed operator under the age of 14 must be accompanied by someone at least 21 years old. The older person must have a valid driver's license.
There are several exceptions to the changes, however, including:
There are several ways to obtain your boater's certification. Certification exams may be taken at the Morgan County driver's license examiner's office and a state-approved on-line course is available at www.boat_ed.com. The Marine Police also offer boating basics courses.
A certificate will be issued for each on-line or classroom test completed.
The certificate should be taken to the examiner's office.
A one-time fee of $5 cash will be charged as an application fee if you have a current Alabama's driver's license. If you are a non-resident, the cost is $23.
The operator's certification will appear on your driver's license and will automatically renew with the license, unless the certification is revoked.
If you are not a licensed driver, but are not suspended or revoked, you can obtain a "vessel only" license. If you live out of state but boat more than 45 days per year in Alabama, you will need to get a non-resident boat operator's license.
According to the Marine Police, many boaters mistakenly believe they have been "grandfathered in" and they are exempt from the certification process.
According to the law, however, all watercraft operators must get certified. If you were born on or before April 28, 1954, you are exempt from taking the written test but must still get the endorsement on your driver's license. If you were not born by that date, you must first take and pass the written test.
For more, call the Marine Police at 1-800-432-7389.