Reference Guide to State Boating Laws

The Reference Guide to State Boating Laws answers a number of questions related to recreational boating safety public law. Topics covered include boating education, operator age, water skiing, boat noise, numbering & titling, personal watercraft, boating under the influence, personal flotation devices and more.

The data in the guide was supplied by the states and collectively updated during 2007. Data can also be updated by boating law administrators (or designates) for the individual states.

The information is subject to change at any time and facts should be verified with the BLAs if there are any questions.

To access the data, click on the drop down menu below and select a topic area.

Life Jackets
[Table 4.9]


Which persons in your state are required to wear a PFD and under what circumstances?

What are the penalties for violating PFD regulations in your state?


1)all children under the age of 8 while onboard any vessel unless in an enclosed cabin or enclosed sleeping area regardless of whether the vessel is in operation 2)all persons on a vessel within 800 feet below a hydroelectric dam and/or navigation lock and dam 3) anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a pwc 4) anyone being towed on water skis, surfboard, dics, spinners, tubes or other similar devices. 

referencing above, violation of 1)$100; violation of 2)$50; violation of 3)$25; violation of 4)$50 


Under 13 when in open boats or on open decks or when water skiing 

$100 for under 13 violation $100 for type IV violation $100 for first PFD carriage violation and $50 for each additional person 

American Samoa

All on board while boat is underway. 

$1000 fine 


All children 12 years of age and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guardé─ýapproved Type I, II, or III life jackets (PFDs) while underway on any vessel. The life jackets (PFDs) must be fastened according to the manufactureré─˘s recommended use and must fit the child properly. 



Anyone 12yrs old or younger must wear a PFD at all times. The only exception is when they are within the enclosed area of a houseboat or cruiser, or within the area enclosed by railings on a party barge, cruiser or houseboat - while the boat is NOT underway. 

$100 to $250 




British Columbia




Age 12 and younger on vessels less than 26 ft in length or in enclosed cabin or tethered to the mast fo a sailboat . All water-skiers and PWC operators, unless competing in sanctioned races or exhibition 

Violations are infractions, with fine of not nore than $150  


persons aboard a PWC, water skiers or persons engaged in similar activities, children less than 13 YOA unless such child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin, persons participating in a regulated river trip provided by a river outfitter unless such river trip is on designated flatwater 

$50.00, except for regulated river trips which have a minimum penalty of $100.00 


All people under 12 years old except when below decks - anyone being towed behind a vessel - all people on pwc's 

Fine $75. 


all children 13 and younger 

25 dollar fine 

District of Columbia

When the operator of a vessel sixteen feet (16 ft.) or more in length is under eighteen (18) years of age, the operator and all other persons aboard the vessel who are under eighteen (18) years of age shall wear a Coast Guard approved personal floatation device of the proper size. All persons aboard any vessel in the area from the southernmost point of the cove commonly known as Fletcheré─˘s Cove in the Georgetown Channel of the Potomac River upstream to the District of Columbia boundary line at Little Falls shall wear a Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device at all times. No person may operate a recreational vessel underway with any child under thirteen years old aboard, unless each child is below the deck, in an enclosed cabin or wearing a US Coast Guard approved personal floatation device. 

Criminal Citation for violation of DCRM 19, Chapter 10, Section 26. $50.00 fine 


Children under 6 years of age must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD at all times while on any vessel less than 26 feet in length that is underway. In addition, each person on board a PWC, and anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a USCG-approved PFD.  

Non-criminal infraction, with a $50 - $80 fine, depending on the county where the violation occurs.  


Children under 10 in an open vessel. All person in a designated Hazardous Area. 




Up to the court 


all children under the age of thirteen are required to wear a properly fitted personal flotation device whenever the vessel is underway on the ocean waters or navigable streams of the state or when moored or anchored offshore in a non-designated offshore mooring area, unless the children are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. 

Č▀200-14 Violation of rules; penalty. (a) Any person who violates any rule adopted by the department under this part or who violates this part, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or less than $50 for each violation, and any vessel, the agents; owner, or crew of which violate the rules of the department or this part, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or less than $50 for each violation; provided that in addition to or as a condition to the suspension of the fines and penalties, the court may deprive the offender of the privilege of operating or mooring any vessel in state waters for a period of not more than thirty days. [Č▀200-14.5] General administrative penalties. (a) Except as otherwise provided by law, the board is authorized to set, charge, and collect administrative fines and to recover administrative fees and costs, including attorney's fees and costs, or bring legal action to recover administrative fines and fees and costs, including attorney's fees and costs, or payment for damages or for the cost to correct damages resulting from a violation of subtitle 8 of title 12 or any rule adopted thereunder. Each day or instance of violation shall constitute a separate offense. (1) For a first violation or a violation beyond five years of a previous violation, a fine of not more than $5,000; (2) For a second violation within five years of a previous violation, by a fine of not more than $10,000; and: (3) For a third or subsequent violation within five years of the last violation, by a fine of not more than $15,000.  


Youths aged 14 and younger on boats greater than 19 feet while underway. 

$84 infraction 


Persons riding on PWC's must wear and children under 13 years of age must wear while boat is under way...  

Petty Offense ($75.00)no more than $1,000.00.  


Anyone operating, on or being towed by a PWC and anyone under the age of 13 yrs on waters of concurrent jurisdiction. 

Class C Infraction Maximum $500.00 fine 


Those persons being towed on waterskis, surfboards or similar devices and operators and passengers on PWC's. 

Simple misdemeanor. Fines=$ 20.00 and costs =$56.40 for a total of $ 76.40.  


any child under the age of 13 while on board a vessel 

Class C misdemeanor fine amount between 0 and 500 dollars set by the court 


All persons under the age of 12 years in an open boat or on an open deck of a vessel being used for recreational purposes while the vessel is underway. 

$50.00 plus court costs 


right now 13 years and under 



Children 10 years of age and under. Anyone operating or riding on a PWC. Any person being towed on water-skies. Certain whitewater areas. Canoeing or kayaking on the Saco River between January 1st and June 1st between the Hiram Dam and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Civil Violation $100 fine 

Manitoba (Canada)




All children under the age of 7 must wear a pfd while on a recreational vessel under 21' in lenght while underway. This requirement does not apply when the vessel is moored,anchored or in an enclosed cabin or below deck. 

Fines, which rise with every additional pfd not on board a vessel 


All PWC users All waterskiiers (persons being towed) Youths less than 12 yoa,when above board Canoeists/kyakers from mid-September thru mid-May. 

$50 fine. 


All vessels must be equipped with a personal flotation device for each person on board. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requires that all vessels have at least one Type I, II, or III personal flotation device that is USCGé─ţapproved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size. Michigan's PFD law permits a vessel that is less than 16 feet long, or is a canoe or kayak, to choose to have either a wearable PFD (Type I, II, or III) or a throwable PFD (Type IV) for each person on board. In addition to the above requirements, one Type IV USCGé─ţapproved PFD must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer and readily accessible. Michigan law requires all children under 6 years of age to wear a USCGé─ţapproved Type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel. Each person riding on or towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guardé─ţapproved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on PWCs. All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible. 

A person who violates this section is responsible for a state civil infraction and may be ordered to pay a civil fine of not more than $100.00 for a child 6 yrs. and under violation. For all other violations a person may be ordered to pay a civil fine of not more than $500.00. History: Add. 1995, Act 58, Imd. Eff. May 24, 1995 ;-- Am. 2007, Act 8, Imd. Eff. May 11, 2007  


PWC riders and passengers. Children under ten. 

$1,000 max and or 90 days in jail. 


Under the age of 13 must wear PFD anytime other than when boat is anchored or docked 

$25 to $ plus court cost100 


All operators and passengers on PWCs. And anyone under age 7 on board any vessel, unless they are inside a totally enclosed area of the boat such as the cabin area of a house boat or day cruiser.  

Not more than one year in jail and/or $1,000 fine. 


persons under 12 are required to wear a PFD while the vessel is in motion 

Misdemeanor and shall be punishable by a fine of not less than $15 or more than $500 or by inprisonment for a term up to 6 months, or both 


All persons under age 13. All persons on PWC regardless of age. 

$50 fine 


Persons under age 13 


New Hampshire

12 years of age and younger while boat in motion, anyone being towed behind a vessel. Operator of a ski craft. 

Fine up to $60.00 

New Jersey

Children under 13YOA all on PWC all water skiers 

Summons/fine $25 to $100 + court cost  

New Mexico

Mandatory wear for all canoes, kayaks, rafts, PWC operator and passengers on all waters of the state. Mandatory wear for those 12 years of age and younger at all times when vessel is underway with exception of being inside the cabin. 

You may be held guilty of a petty misdemeanor by the county magistrate judge. This is punished by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $500 or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days or both. The court may also impose court costs. (31-19-1 NMSA 1978) The judge may also elect to deferr or suspend the sentence and place the defendant on probation.  

New York

1. Anyone <12 years of age on a vessel <65 feet, unless situated in an enclosed cabin; 2. Anyone towed behind a vessel; 3. Anyone on a personal watercraft; 4. Anyone on a vessel <21 feet between Nov 1st and May 1st.  

10. Any violation of the provisions of this section, or of a rule or regulation adopted pursuant to this section, shall constitute a violation punishable by a fine of not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars.  

North Carolina

No person shall operate a personal watercraft on the waters of this State, nor shall the owner of a personal watercraft knowingly allow another person to operate that personal watercraft on the waters of this State, unless: (1) Each person riding on or being towed behind the vessel is wearing a type I, type II, type III, or type V personal flotation device approved by the United States Coast Guard. Inflatable personal flotation devices do not satisfy this requirement No person may use a recreational vessel unless each child under 13 years old on board is wearing an appropriate PFD approved by the Coast Guard unless: Each child not wearing such a PFD is below decks or in an enclosed cabin. The vessel is not underway. (Vessels that are anchored or tied to shore are not underway.) This law does not apply to commercial vessels.  

Class three misdemeanor with $25.00 fine plus cost of court. ($135.00 currently)  

North Dakota

It is unlawful for any person to operate or to be a passenger on any vessel less than twenty-seven feet in lenght unless all persons, ten years of age and younger present on the vessel wear an appropriately sized and properly fastened USCG approved type I, II or III wearable PFD while the vessel is in operation. 


Northern Mariana Islands




Children less than 10 on a vessel less than 18 feet in length and all PWC operators must wear a PFD. 

A 4th degree misdemeanor(M4). Sking without a PFD is a Minor misdemeanor(MM). 


Any person 12 YOA or younger who is a passenger on a vessel less than 26 feet in length shall wear a proper PFD. Any person operating or manipulating, or who is a passenger on a PWC, water skis, sailboard, parasail or similar devices shall wear a proper PFD. 


Ontario (Canada)




Children 12 years and younger are required to wear a USCG approved PFD while on an open deck or cockpit of a vessel that is underway or when the child is being towed. 

Class B Violation; fines for non-accident are $237 and for accident $273. 


Children 12 years of age and younger shall wear an approved Type I, II, III or V PFD while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and all canoes and kayaks. Anyone onboard a PWC or a sailboard must wear a PFD. Anyone being pulled behind a boat must wear a PFD. 


Puerto Rico

Any child under 12 in a vessel while moving. All users of a PWC.  

$50.00 fine 

Quebec (Canada)



Rhode Island

children under the age of 13 when under way on a vessel under 65 ft unless below decks. operator and passengers on PWC 


South Carolina

Children under 12 years of age in a Class A motorboat must wear a PFD at all times. Any person operating a PWC, or waterskiing must wear a PFD. 

Must be fined not less tha 25 dollars nor more than 200 dollars. 

South Dakota

Children under the age of seven. 

Class II misdemeanor - maximum penalty of $100 and 30 days in county jail. 


All persons 12 years of age and under. All operators/pasengers and persons being towed by PWC's  

A fine of not more than 50 dollars 


Passengers younger than 13 years of age while underway; PWC operators and passengers at all times. 

$25-$500 fine 


*Persons less than 13 years of age while outside the cabin of vessel 19 feet or more *All persons on board a PWC *All persons on rivers, except on designated flatwater sections 

Class B Misdeamenor, Max. $1,000 or 6 months in jail 


Childen under the age of 12 while underway on an open deck are required to wear a PFD. Any person on board a PWC and any person under 16 while on a sailboard. 

Fine up to $84.00. 

Virgin Islands




All operators and passengers of PWCs 

Maximum $250 fine 


All persons on a PWC; any person 12 years of age or less on vessel under 19' in length. 

Infraction violation that must be witnessed by law enforcement officer. Fine amount: $87.00. 

West Virginia

Anyone 12 and under on an open deck while the vessel is underway. All persons on PWCs and all water skiers.  

Minimum $20 plus $168 court costs 


PWC operators and riders 



skiers, any person being towed on a water toy, and as of Jan 1, 2008 children 12 and under will have to wear them when on a boat that is underway, if they're not in an enclosed cabin or below deck.