Safe boating education comes online

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 21, 2005

The last few days I have noticed a growing trend involving recreational boating. It seems that the number of print and television ads for Personal Water Crafts (PWCs) has been growing. I saw several ads in newspapers both in Hampton Roads and Washington D.C. My favorite online search engine sites have had PWC ads and one of my favorite national magazines had one. Could it be spring is right around the corner? Well, the pitchers and catchers did report to spring training this week.

I bring up the subject of PWCs and their operators because I made a recent discovery online that everyone who owes or is considering owning one of these type of watercraft should visit. The Web site is Seriously, there is now an online safety school ready to provide the boating public three key elements involved in properly operating a PWC including; safe boating techniques, state rules and applicable regulations, all available at the click of a mouse. Is this a great country or what?

PWC accidents have been a significant issue for not only the United States Coast Guard but state and local boat administrators around the country. From the warm blue water of Miami, to small lakes in Indiana the number of PWCs on the water is significant.

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According to the Web site, &uot;PWC experience a disporportinate number of accidents as compared to traditional powerboats, a fact recognized by the NTSB, USCG, NABLA, American Medical Association (AMA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 70% of PWC accidents are collisions and 70% of these are collisions with other PWC. In other words, half (49%) of all PWC accidents are collisions with other PWC. &uot;

It is with these thoughts in mind that I recommend the site, which has three primary parts.

First and foremost, the site provides a PWC Handbook. This handbook is broken into nine distinctive parts including: Introduction, PWC Basics, PWC Equipment, Starting Out, Waterway Rules, Local Laws (you can go to the Virginia specific information), Local Conditions (such as currents, docks, and weather), The Ride (including how to safely board), and Care and Maintenance. It is a complete look at just about every critical issue a veteran or novice PWC rider would ever want to know about.

It is easy to read and follow and printed in a manner that makes even the most unique &uot;rules of the road&uot; understandable.

Once you have mastered the information in the handbook, which on average takes a total of about 10 hours to get through, PWC operators can take the online test via the secure site. Using nationally accepted secure software riders receive both general and state specific tests.

If you studied the information in the handbook you can pass the test, which is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. The breakdown is 60 total questions, 50 general and 10 state specific. You need an 85 to pass, which is 51 correct answers. Don’t let this number scare you off; everyone is capable of passing this test and gaining a great deal of information on safe operation and boating laws.

What is the advantage of the online program?

Well, flexibility is the biggest reason. You read, study and learn on your own time, rather than in a formal classroom setting.

You also get to take the exam when you are ready. If 2 a.m. on a Saturday is when you are at the top of your game, that is when you can take the exam.

The personal computer requirements for this program are also very easy; a 486 or higher computer is all it takes so you Pentium Four owners out there are set.

Besides the handbook and test there are also useful links provided on the site, which will allow the user to review even more information.

PWCSAFETYSCHOOL.COM is a good resource for PWC operators providing wonderful information, at your own pace.

Until next week…Boat Safe…and Boat Smart.