It was in 2006 that the Oklahoma State Senators Kenneth Corn and Todd Lamb introduced legislation aimed at saving the lives of children and teenagers on Oklahoma Lakes. Senate Bill 1495, known as the Kyle Williams Boating Safety Education Act, became law in 2007.
Named after 12 year-old Kyle Williams who died as a result of a jet ski accident in 1994, the law prohibits kids between the ages of 12 and 16, without a valid drivers license, from operating any vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower or a sailing vessel 16 feet or longer without first completing a state-approved Boater Safety Course.
“We have had nearly 500 students take and successfully pass the Boater Safety Course” – Charlie Floyd, Superintendent of Law Enforcement
In an effort to educate the public about the law, and continuing with their own efforts to promote water safety, the Grand River Dam Authority’s Lake Police began offering safety courses free of charge in 2008. Initially, GRDA took classes to the kids, holding them in the communities around the lake or in classrooms of area schools. However, since the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Building was completed in the spring of 2010, the courses have been held at that location.
“We have had nearly 500 students take and successfully pass the Boater Safety Course,” said Charlie Floyd, Superintendent of Law Enforcement, who teaches the majority of the classes. “Our goal is to educate as many people as possible about safe behavior while boating or enjoying other water related activities on GRDA lakes in order to reduce the number of boating accidents or other injuries.
The classes are a full day, 8AM to 5PM, with a test. The test covers all the material that the students have learned during the day. After passing the test, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will mail a certificate showing that the possessor has taken the course and passed the test. Children are required to carry the certificate while operating vessels.
Fines for violating the law range from $50 – $500. However, according to Floyd, the goal is not to hand out fines as much as it is to educate the public. He encourages adults to take the course as well.
“We feel that this education process is very valuable and we also feel that our efforts have been and continue to be successful. We have seen a dramatic decrease in boating accidents and prop strike accidents, as well as other injuries on boats and docks in the past couple of years,” said Floyd.