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Florida lawmaker seeks new PWC operator age limit

A bill that would raise the age to legally operate a personal watercraft in Florida from 14 to 16 was filed this week by state Sen. Jeremy Ring.

The bill also would end the practice of allowing children to steer a boat with the proper supervision of an adult with boater education.

The fine for allowing an underage operator would remain the same, a $50 civil penalty, according to the News Service of Florida.

The bill comes a few months after two 14-year-old boys vanished at sea after leaving Jupiter Inlet in a 19-foot SeaCraft.

The tragedy prompted a national debate about whether the boys were too young to be operating a boat offshore, even if they had significant boating experience, as the missing boys did.

The bill has been assigned to multiple Senate committees, including the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, the Commerce and Tourism Committee and the Rules Committee, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The Florida legislature will be back in session on Jan. 12.

The Personal Watercraft Industry Association supports the age increase, but the PWIA and NMMA are seeking clarification of the child operation provision.