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Boating Rules And Regulations - What You Need To Know To Stay Safe And Out Of Trouble When You’re On The Water!

Before you start looking through the boat classified ads for a new boat for sale or even a used boat for sale, so you can get out on the water as soon as possible, you should stop to consider getting familiar with the basic boating rules and regulations. These may affect the type of boat you buy and how you plan to use it. Although boating almost rhymes with partying, they are not one in the same. The number of registered boaters continues to rise each year and although the number of fatal accidents has seemed to level off over the past few years, the amount of boating congestion and traffic hasn’t. Each year it seems as though there are more and more boaters on our inland waters and major gateways and your local county law enforcement is now consistently monitoring them for improper boating operation. Below are some of the key boating rules and regulations you should be familiar with, if you prefer to stay out of the clink, so to speak.

Age requirements: Persons must have attained the age of 14-16 years to operate a motorboat with an engine size greater than 15 horsepower. Persons between the ages of 12-15 may operate a boat provided he or she is accompanied by an adult. This regulation varies from state to state, so check your local authority.

Boating in Restricted Areas - Restricted areas are normally marked with buoys, beacons or diver down flags. Be careful to check for restricted areas at your local DNR launch site or steer clear of marked areas.

Slow-No Wake Zone: Marked zones require that you operate your boat as to not create a wake.

Riding on Bow: It is illegal to ride on the bow, unless equipped with seating, or gunwale of a boat that is traveling at speeds greater than slow-no wake speed.

Improper Distance: It is illegal to operate a boat when traveling greater than slow-no wake speeds within 100 feet of a shoreline in water less than 3 feet deep, any moored or anchored vessel, any dock or raft, a marked swimming area. Personal water crafts must stay at least 200 feet from any Great Lakes shore and not cross within 150 feet of another vessel.

Failure to Regulate Speed: It is illegal to operate a boat at speeds that could cause danger to property or life or speeds that make it impossible for you to safely manage your vessel including;

- speeds greater than 55mph on small inland lakes
- faster than reasonable speeds in severe conditions
- speeds greater than slow-no wake speeds with persons riding on bow

Reckless Operation: Includes operation your vessel that endangers the safety of others or the property of others. For example; weaving your boat through congested waterways, jumping the wake of another boat, driving close to another vessel with restricted visibility, chasing or harassing wildlife or causing damage from the wake of your boat.

Pulling Skiers: Towing skiers must only be done during daylight hours. That means from dawn until dusk. It is unlawful to pull skiers from sunset to sunrise. Boats towing skiers must be equipped with a wide angle rearview mirror or have another person on board, 12 years or older, to observe the skier.

PWC (Personal Watercraft) - Operation and Regulations: applies to Jet Skis and other types of watercraft that the user sits on or stands on as opposed to sits in.

- each occupant must wear a life preserver or life jacket
- if equipped with a kill switch – cord must be attached to the driver
- inflatable life jackets are not acceptable or approved for PWC’s
- can only be operated during daytime hours and cannot be used from sunset to sunrise
- must maintain at least 50 foot distance from other objects including boats, shore, docks, swimmers unless moving at no-wake speed
- jumping the wake of another vessel or driving excessively close is unlawful
- it is unlawful to operate the vessel in a designated area for bathing, fishing, swimming or in a restricted area
- operated the vessel while intoxicated (blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher)
- it is unlawful to operate the vessel within 50’ of a diver down flag

Note: there are additional requirements and regulations for PWC – personal watercraft. (Jet skis, etc.) See your local state DNR, Secretary of State for applicable rules and regulations.

Alcohol and Drugs: In some states, alcohol is involved in as much as 25% of boating accidents. It is illegal to operate your boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is also illegal for the owner of a boat to allow another person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to operate their boat. In most states, if you have a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.1 % you are guilty of a misdemeanor. In some states it’s 0.08%. If you’re BAL is 0.07%, your local Sheriffs deputy can apply other tests to determine if you are under the influence.

Your blood alcohol level is dependent on your weight, your metabolism and how much food is in your stomach. Heavier persons or persons that have recently eaten will have a higher tolerance to the effect of alcohol.

Blood Alcohol levels - FOR REFERENCE ONLY

For a medium size adult male weighing approximately 175lbs his blood alcohol level will be as follows;

1 drink in ½ hour - .016
2 drinks in 1 hour- .032
3 drinks in 1.5 hours- .048
4 drinks in 2 hours- .064
5 drinks in 2.5 hours- .08
6 drinks in 3.5 hours - .096

For a large size adult male weighing approximately 225 lbs;

1 drink in ½ hour - .01
2 drinks in 1 hour- .02
3 drinks in 1.5 hours- .03
4 drinks in 2 hours- .045
5 drinks in 2.5 hours- .06
6 drinks in 3.5 hours - .067

Blood Alcohol Levels and How it Feels Physically:

.02 – relaxed feeling
.05 – less alert and physical coordination and impairment starts
.07 – legally intoxicated in many states

According to this reference data, it’s clear that a few drinks over a period of a few hours maybe enjoyed and managed, but 4 or more drinks regardless of your size puts you and others at risk. So as they say on TV – don’t drink and drive and if you choose to drink – do so responsibly.

Submitted by:

Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher is an engineer by trade, a longtime boater and part time writer for www.BoatFisher.com. List your boat classified ad for only $9.95 until it sells or find boat covers, trailers, accessories and more in the Boating Directory Resource section.




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