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.
The law raises the minimum age to 16 years for individuals to legally operate a personal watercraft alone. Previously, the minimum age had been 14 years to operate a personal watercraft, which includes Jet Skis, Sea-Doos and WaveRunners.
Wildlife officers with the AGFC have not issued any tickets to violators, only warnings have been given at this time.
Boat operators between 12 and 15 years of age may operate a personal watercraft only when accompanied by an individual at least 18 years old who was born after 1985 or has a valid boating education certificate. Additionally, the accompanying person must be in position to take immediate control of the vessel.
Boat operators under age 12 may operate a personal watercraft only if accompanied by an individual at least 21 years old who was born after 1985 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 1985 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 starting 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.