Governor Ted Strickland Signs Legislation to Enhance Boating Safety on Ohio Waterways

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COLUMBUS, OH – Governor Ted Strickland today signed legislation to enhance boating safety on Ohio waterways, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Watercraft.

Senate Bill 271, passed by the Ohio General Assembly last month, addresses a diversity of issues across the state. It became effective immediately upon the governor’s signature.

The new legislation creates the following changes in Ohio boating laws:

1) Establishes “failure to control” as an enforceable boat operator rule. Many accidents occur as the result of operator inexperience or the forces of nature. These are not the result of a “rules of the road” violation or caused by reckless operation, but may result in minor property damage or injury.

Examples of situations encompassed by the “failure to control” law include: over-compensation in strong winds or currents, loss of steerage on jet boats when the throttle is released, and attempting to maneuver under sail power alone through congested areas like marinas that may result in an accident.

2) Increases the horsepower limit on Pymatuning Lake in northeastern Ohio to 20 horsepower. Approximately two-thirds of the lake is within the boundaries of Pennsylvania, which passed legislation to allow for the increase several years ago. The aim of this legislation is to remove the confusion surrounding the Pymatuning Lake Compact and improve boater safety.

3) Creates a “no wake zone,” requiring boat operators to reduce their speed when passing a boat actively engaged in providing public service, including law enforcement, fireboats, search and rescue teams, dredges and towing services. This is similar to the law requiring motorists to proceed with caution and change lanes or slow down when approaching a stationary public safety vehicle displaying an emergency light.

4) Permits boaters to “slow tow” ski tubes and other towables in no-wake zones and areas outside of the designated speed and ski zones. Enactment of this provision will create additional recreational opportunities for individuals who are physically unable to manage or do not desire the higher speeds of open zones.

5) Allows children under 10 years of age, who board a watercraft under 18 feet in length, to wear a swimsuit-style life jacket. The children’s Type V personal flotation device was approved by the U.S. Coast Guard several years ago and is designed to be more comfortable and better suited to the activities of children participating in family boating.

6) Allows for the transfer of electronic titles for outboard motors. This provision reduces the time it takes to transfer titles by preventing the need for a watercraft dealer to first issue a physical title.