A boating accident that cost the life of Ardmore resident Robbie Brooks has led Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) to file legislation to increase safety on Oklahoma's lake and rivers.
Currently, Oklahoma requires individuals 12 to 16 years of age to take a boater education course before they can legally man a watercraft. Since that law was instituted, fatalities have dropped in that age group but adults ranging from 25 to 40 remain a problem according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
House Bill 1463 would expand the boater education requirement to adults but would grandfather in most current boaters.
"The information we received from public safety officials was that education is effective and easy to accomplish," Ownbey said. "My legislation requires individuals born after 1992 to take boating education courses before going out on Oklahoma waters. This way, individuals who have already been boating for years will not be required to take the course, but for future generations, education will be required for everybody."
Christina Watts, sister-in-law of Brooks, said she supports the idea of mandatory boater education and agreed that her age group of ages 25 to 40 is a problem.
Ownbey's bill would set aside a first-time penalty for failure to obtain a proper safety certification to be on the water at $50 to $100. The penalty for second and subsequent offenses would range from $250 to $500.
"A light penalty for a first-time offender and a much more stringent penalty for multiple offenses is appropriate," Ownbey said.