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Boating requirements: Certification matters in Rhode Island

When you're out on the water, it's time to enjoy being with your friends and family. As the fall and winter approach, it's an important time to talk about boating safety. Waters can get rough quickly, so you need to understand the laws, what to do in an emergency and how to be safe.

The most important thing to know about boating in Rhode Island is that you need to be certified to drive a boat. This didn't used to be the case, and anyone born before Dec. 31, 1985 doesn't have to have a certification. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1986 does need to have one to be behind the wheel. If you'll be riding a jet ski, you need to be certified regardless of age. Out-of-state residents also need certifications to operate any vessels that are not personal vessels.

Anyone can get certified by taking a classroom course offered by state-approved course providers or by studying online and passing a proctored exam. Classes are at least eight hours long, giving you a strong background in safety and law regarding boating in Rhode Island waters.

If you get into an accident when you're on the water, you'll need to report the accident in most situations. For example, if the vessel sinks, you need to report it. If someone disappears or if someone is killed or dies, then the accident has to be reported. Likewise, property damage of $2,000 or more or injuries requiring medical care beyond first aid must be reported.

If you're in a crash, our website has more about what to do next. If a negligent or dangerous driver without a certification hit you, it's your right to seek legal action.

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