GAINESVILLE — Patrolling the lake, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Ranger First Class Eric Isom carries with him the remembrances of recent boating tragedies.
Isom and his partner were the first to respond to the scene involving Kile Glover, a child who was killed on Lake Lanier when hit by a personal watercraft in 2012.
“I hate to say it, but sometimes it takes tragedies like that to make the public aware of the dangers,” Isom said. “Some good has come from this.”
He takes off to patrol in a boat with a “Team Prince” sticker to honor Jake and Griffin Prince, who died in a boating accident the same year.
“It’s up to each individual officer, but I’ve got one in my transport seat of my truck … because that was a tragedy that could have been avoided right there and should have been avoided. It ruined that whole family’s life forever,” Isom said.
After the first year under the Kile Glover Boater Education Law, statewide licenses are up by nearly 1,400 since last year, from 3,676 to 5,032.
The law that took effect July 1 required all people born after Jan. 1, 1998, to pass a safety education test and carry a card while operating a vessel.
Capt. Mike England, who keeps all of the information on a fiscal year basis, said 766 people have passed the test required under the law since October.
“Our summer months, it’ll really jump up,” he said.
Online testing is three times as popular compared to classroom testing, which the DNR and other groups around the lake provide. DNR hosted two classes last year in Hall County.
“A lot of time they set up a class and nobody shows up or not enough people sign up,” England said.
No information was available on the age breakdown, but Isom noticed that the crop of drivers on the lake has skewed a bit younger.
“You would think the price of boats would keep the majority of people to be the older class of people out here, but surprisingly you see a large number of younger folks,” he said.
In 2010, more than 600 people failed the test, England said. The number shrunk considerably to 43 in 2013 and 105 in 2014.
“A lot of these online courses now, it’s ‘no pass, no pay,’” England said, adding that some providers don’t report failure rates.