Why It Matters: From inland lakes and rivers to offshore destinations, the Palmetto State offers boaters, anglers, and hunters a wide variety of opportunities on the water. To ensure a successful experience, boater safety is paramount. During the first half of 2023, there were 74 boating accidents and 7 boating related deaths in South Carolina. Consequently, the South Carolina angling and boating community stepped up to advocate for changes in the law to enhance boater safety.
- Sponsored by South Carolina Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Senator Chip Campsen and Caucus Co-Chair Senator Thomas McElveen, the South Carolina Boating Safety and Education Bill (Senate Bill 96) will enhance boater safety across the state.
- Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Henry McMaster signed SB 96 into law on June 19. The legislation requires individuals born after July 1, 2007, to complete a boating safety education course that is approved by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), supported SB 96 alongside in-state partners, namely the South Carolina Boating and Fishing Alliance, who led the charge on this critical legislation.
With SB 96 taking effect on August 18, members of the South Carolina boating, angling, and hunting community can enjoy the state’s waterways knowing that many other boaters have completed a boating safety education course. Boaters born before July 1, 2007, will be required to complete a boating safety education course to operate a vessel in South Carolina.
The new law applies to vessels with a 10-horsepower or greater engine, personal watercraft, and personal propcraft. The law excludes boaters in possession of a merchant mariner credential or license to operate a vessel issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, nonresidents in possession of a boating safety certificate issued by another state, boat renters with a valid boat rental safety certificate, or boaters accompanied by a person 18 years old that meets one of the above criteria.
South Carolina is home to over 500,000 registered boats which ranks 7th in the nation in per capita boat registration. Boating and fishing bring in over $5 billion of combined economic impact to the Palmetto State and contribute significantly to state-based conservation funding.
CSF commends the South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the South Carolina Boating and Fishing Alliance for championing boater safety on South Carolina’s waterways.