Rachel’s Law affects teens operating personal watercraft

LITTLE ROCK, Ar (AGFC) - Teens operating personal watercraft will face a new age restriction. "Rachel's Law" took effect July 10, raising the minimum age to 16 years for individuals to legally operate a personal watercraft alone.

The law is named after Rachel Rutherford, who died of her injuries as the result of a personal watercraft accident on Lake Hamilton at the age of 15.

Previously, the minimum age had been 14 years to operate a personal watercraft, which includes Jet Skis, Sea-Doos and WaveRunners. While the law primarily affects teen boaters, other age groups are under its influence, too.

Boat operators under age 12 may operate a personal watercraft only if accompanied by an individual at least 21 years old who was born before 1986 or has a valid boating education certificate. Again, this accompanying individual must lawfully be in position to take immediate control of the personal watercraft.

By law, all Arkansas boat operators born after Jan. 1, 1986 must complete an approved AGFC boating education course. A course may be completed in any of the following ways: in an instructor-led course free of charge, online for $15, or, for a limited time, via a home study course which includes a DVD or video available for purchase online. For more information about boating courses, visit www.agfc.com/boating and click on "Boating Education," or call (877) 493-6424.

Though a boating education course is mandatory for many young boaters, the information is valuable for everyone. Additionally, the boating education course will undergo changes beginning Jan. 1, 2010: boat operators will no longer be able to take non-proctored (unsupervised) final tests when taking the online course, among other changes that are being developed.