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Always put safety first
when boating on the lake

The following is the sixth in a series of columns by Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, regarding news of a legal nature that readers might find timely in this ever-changing world.

By Jim Reed
Managing partner
Ziff Law Firm, Elmira

I have had a home on Seneca Lake for 18 years, and some of my favorite memories are boating on the lake.

I have a Four Winns boat that has spent countless hours spinning kids on tubes (my kids love the Texas Death Spiral) and pulling water skiers. Some of my most pleasant memories are the times when I have been the only adult in a boat full of kids just having fun on a hot summer day.

I also have some pretty scary memories of racing thunderstorms to get back to our dock safely. Seneca Lake is a beautiful lake, but you need to be very respectful of the dangers of sudden changes in the weather.

Mother Nature isn't the only danger facing people on boats and personal watercraft. I have seen or experienced my share of close calls when boating. There is nothing better on a sunny summer day in the Finger Lakes than heading out on the lake in your favorite boat or personal watercraft to relax.

But you need to anticipate dangers as you get your boat or personal watercraft ready.

From my experience, the two biggest dangers on the water are alcohol use and high speeds at night.

Obviously, alcohol impairs judgment and reaction times, which can be very dangerous.

And piloting a boat at night is very difficult because lights on the water can be very disorienting and it can be very difficult to differentiate between lights on another boat, on a dock or on shore.

And one other very important safety tip: always be alert for water skiers, swimmers, and kayakers because they can be very hard to see day or night.

I always encourage all boaters to wear life jackets, but this is who is required by law in New York State:

--Children under 12 years old on pleasure vessels less than 65 feet long -- canoes, kayaks or rowboats -- unless in an enclosed cabin.
--Wakeboarders, water skiers, tubers, and anyone else who is being towed.
--Everyone aboard pleasure vessels less than 21 feet long, including rowboats, canoes, and kayaks, from Nov. 1 to May 1.
--All personal watercraft users.

For more boating safety information in New York State, download the free New York State Boater's Guide (click here), which summarizes equipment and trailer regulations, laws for safely navigating our waterways, and much more. If you're a boater, please download it now.
Be safe, and see you out on the lake.

* * * * *

Bicycle law quiz: In my fifth Odessa File column last month on bicycle laws in New York State, I tested readers' knowledge about state laws pertaining to bicyclists, and provided a bonus: Everyone who sent me their answers was entered in a drawing for a $50 gift card to Nickel's Pit BBQ. Patti Schimizzi of Watkins Glen won the gift card. Congratulations, Patti!

Here are the questions and the correct answers:

1. Bicyclists are required to have front and rear lights if they are riding at night. True.
2. May bicyclists legally ride side by side? Yes, but not when passing parked cars, other bicycles or pedestrians, or being overtaken by a vehicle.
3. Is it legal to ride with earphones? One earphone is legal.
4. Fill in the blank: Children under14 years old must wear a helmet.
5. What is the state's required safe passing distance when motorists pass bicyclists on the same side of the road? There is no specific distance listed.

Thanks for reading,



To see Jim Reed's first column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's second column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's third column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's fourth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's fifth column, click here.

© The Odessa File 2018
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869