New bill would require boat safety course in Kentucky

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 9:19 PM CST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A central Kentucky woman is pushing for more safety on the water.

She wants to see more training, and regulations for boaters. Currently, there aren’t many rules on the water.

In June of 2021, 43-year-old Joey Reed was killed in a tragic boating accident, leaving behind five children and his partner, Jenifer Steger.

“He was this avid outdoorsman. He loved the water. He grew up on the water, he was educated, safety first always. But right now there are five children who don’t have a father,” Steger said.

Reed was an experienced boater who had taken steps to be safe out on the water. But Kentucky does not require people ages 18 and older to take the same steps he did.

Now, Steger is advocating for Senate Bill 35, which she refers to as “Joey’s Law.” It would require all boaters in the state to complete a boater education course.

“77% of recreational boating fatalities occurred on a vessel where the operator had no safety instruction whatsoever,” Steger said.

“By making it mandatory for everyone to know the rules of the water while they’re on it, you will save lives,” Steger said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, would require that people carry a safe boating certification card while operating a boat, or face penalties.

“Right now in the state of Kentucky, as long as you’re 18 years old you can buy a boat, put it on the water and call yourself a captain. There are rules, but you don’t have to know them,” Steger said.

Steger called the lake her happy place, but said it needs to be safe. She added that it’s not about keeping anyone off the water, but rather keeping them aware of the rules, and of others who are out there with them.

“It’s too late to save Joey’s, but it’s not too late to save the next person,” Steger said.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate last year. It looks like it was moved to a committee and didn’t make much progress.

If passed, people who aren’t carrying a certificate will not be penalized until 2023. They would instead receive a courtesy notice that they need to complete a boater education course.

Those who have owned a boat for at least five years will also be exempt from completing a course.

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