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.

Alabama

Question

Data

Commercial Vessels

Does your state/territory regulate commercial vessels on sole state waters?

No

Other, please specify

If you answered yes to the previous question, is your agency responsible for enforcing regulations on commercial vessels on sole state waters?

Other, please specify

If you answered "No" to the previous question, which state agency is responsible?

None; the majority of commercial traffic in this state is on federal waterways. Most of the sole state waters are impoundments.

White Water

Does your state regulate vessel operation in white water areas?

Yes

Other, please specify

Does your state regulate commercial white water operations?

Yes

Other, please specify

Search & Rescue

Does your agency have a dive team?

Yes

Other, please specify

What agency is responsible for Search and Rescue operations?

On coastal waters: Alabama Marine Police On inland waters: Volunteer rescue squads or city/county fire and rescue teams

What agency is responsible for victim recovery?

On coastal waters: Alabama Marine Police or rescue squads On inland waters: Volunteer rescue squads or city/county fire and rescue teams

Boating Education Requirements

Does your state require mandatory boating safety education for some segment of the population?

Yes

Who is required to complete a boating education course in your state?

In general, anyone 12 years old or older who operates a vessel on state waters.

Are only residents of your state required to complete a boating education course?

No

Other, please specify

Education Exemptions

Are non-residents exempt from having to take a boating education course in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Non-residents may operate for 45 days per calendar

Are U.S. Coast Guard licensed operators exempt from having to take a boating education course in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

Are any other persons exempt from having to take a boating education course in your state? Please list.

Anyone born prior to 4/28/1954 must be licensed to operate a vessel, but does not have to complete an education course to obtain the license.

Exams and License/Certificate Issuance

Is issuance of a license/certificate dependant upon passing an exam in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Yes, except for the exemption explained above (#16

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the passing score in your state?

80%

Providers of Education Courses

State Agency

X

US Coast Guard Auxiliary

X

US Power Squadrons

X

Public School System

X

Private Company

Other, please specify

Dept. of Public Safety

Minors, Powerboats Personal Watercraft

Does your state require an adult to be on board when a minor is operating a motor-powered vessel other than a PWC?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

12 and 13 year olds must have an adult onboard

Does your state require an adult to be on board when a minor is operating a PWC?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

12 and 13 year olds must have an adult onboard

Minimum Ages for Education Certification

Does your state certify minor boaters?

Yes

Other, please specify

What is the minimum age someone can be certified in your state?

12 years old

Does your state have reciprocity for accepting out of state certification of minor boaters if the certification course meets NASBLA's Education Standards?

yes, Alabama accepts any NASBLA approved education course from any state in lieu of our state's course, providing the minor is 12 or older.

Mandatory Boat Operator Licensing

Does your state require mandatory boat operator licensing?

Yes

Other, please specify

Minimum Ages for Non-PWC Vessels

Does your state set a minimum age requirement to operate a motor powered vessel other than a PWC?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the required age and any other details such as horsepower rating.

12 years old or older to operate any type vessel. 12 and 13 years olds must have someone 21 years old or older, who is a licensed operator, on board and within reach of the controls. 14 years old or older to operate alone.

Does your state set any minimum age requirements to operate a PWC?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the requirements.

12 years old or older to operate any type vessel. 12 and 13 years olds must have someone 21 years old or older, who is a licensed operator, on board and within reach of the controls. 14 years old or older to operate alone.

Minimum Ages for Non-Powered Vessels

Are there any minimum age requirements in your state to operate non-powered vessels such as sailboats, canoes or kayaks?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the requirements.

Education Reciprocity

Do you accept out-of-state boating education certificates in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, which type of certificates do you accept?

Alabama accepts any NASBLA approved education course certificate from any state in lieu of our state's course certificate.

Does your state honor NASBLA-approved course reciprocity for non-residents?

Yes

Other, please specify

Wallet-Sized Certificates

Does your state issue wallet size boating certificate cards?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

On state driver's license; or separate card is iss

How long are education certificates/student wallet cards valid in your state?

Forever, the vessel class "V" is added to the state driver's license and automatically renews each time the license is renewed (every 4 years). For non-residents or non-drivers, a vessel only card is issued and must be renewed every 4 years.

Challenge Exams

Does your state allow students to take a challenge exam to meet your state boating education requirement?

Yes

Other, please specify

Online Courses & Proctoring

Does your state have any laws in place which expressly prohibit online boating safety courses?

No

Other, please specify

Does your state require boating safety tests to be proctored?

No

Other, please specify

Water Skiing

Does your state require an observer to be present when pulling a skier?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

vessel: observer or mirror pwc:mirrors

Does your state require a mirror to be present when pulling a skier?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

vessel: observer or mirror pwc:mirrors

Does your state prohibit water skiing during any specific time of the day/night?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please describe the time(s) when skiing is prohibited.

from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise

Water Skiing

Does your state require a skier to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD?

Yes

Are self-propelled skis allowed to be used in your state?

Yes

Does your state require the use of a skier down flag?

No

Describe any other water skiing restrictions in your state.

Motorboat Noise

Is there a maximum noise level for motorboats in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please give the levels and standard used.

cannot exceed a noise level of 86 decibels measured at a distance of 50 feet form the vessel

Is there a factory muffling alteration law in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the law?

33-5-23(a) The exhaust of every internal combustion engine used on any vessel shall be effectively muffled by equipment so constructed and used as to muffle the noise of the exhaust in a reasonable manner. The use of cutouts is prohibited, except for vessels competing in a regatta or official boat race, and for such vessels while on trial runs.

Is boat noise governed by local ordinance in your state?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the local ordinance?

Marine Sanitation Devices

Does your state prohibit Y-valve through-hull discharge in waters of state jurisdiction?

Yes

Other, please specify

Does your state require Y-valves to be locked/closed in waters of state jurisdiction?

Yes

Other, please specify

Marine Sanitation Devices

What are the penalties for misuse or failure to equip a vessel with a Marine Sanitation Device in your state?

Not every vessel is required to be equipped with an msd (federal standard applies). For vessels that are equipped with an msd and misuse it, the penalty is a fine of not less than $100 or more than $1000. First time offenders are given a warning and have 90 days to come into compliance with the act. If they fail to do so, a citation is written and the above stated penalty goes into effect.

What are the penalties for illegal dumping/discharge of a Marine Sanitation Device in your state?

The penalty is a fine of not less than $100 or more than $1000. First time offenders are given a warning and have 90 days to come into compliance with the act. If they fail to do so, a citation is written and the above stated penalty goes into effect.

Personal Watercraft Operation

Does your state require users to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD when operating a PWC?

Yes

Does your state require PWC rental operators to provide any instruction or education in PWC operation prior to use?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how much instruction is required?

The rental contract must specify that the lessee has been instructed in the proper and safe operation of the vessel by the lessor or an authorized agent of the lessor. The type of instruction/education is up to the lessor.

Does your state prohibit PWC operation at any specific times?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the times.

If the pwc is not equipped with navigation lights, operation is prohibited from sunset until sunrise.

Personal Watercrafts and Skiers

Does your state allow PWCs to pull water skiers?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, are there any restrictions?

Must have 2 mirrors, with a minimum viewing area of 10 square inches each, measuring a minimum of 2.5 inches tall and 4.0 inches wide. These mirrors must be mounted, one on each side, on the body (not the steering mechanism) of the pwc in such a way as to maximize the rear viewing of the operator.

Personal Watercraft Restrictions

Is there a speed limit specific to PWCs other than slow/no wake zones in your state?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the speed limit.

Is PWC operation restricted within any area or zone in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the restricted area or zone.

Only zones marked by signs or bouys or on public fishing lakes that specifically prohibit their use

Are limitations imposed on wake jumping with PWCs in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please describe the limitations.

33-5-51(d) ....jumping the wake of another vessel travelling in the same direction in close proximity to the vessel...crossing at right angles in close proximity to the stern of another vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is obstructed...

Is there a kill switch or safety lanyard requirement for PWCs in your state?

Yes

Life Jackets

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

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.

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

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

Blood Alcohol Content

What is the BAC level at which a person is considered intoxicated in your state?

0.08

Does your state have a lower threshold for BAC for minor boaters?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the BAC level for minors?

0.00%

Boating Under the Influence

Does a BUI conviction impact an offender's automobile driving privileges in any way in your state?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how are their privileges impacted?

BUI Saturation Patrols & Checkpoints

Are BUI saturation patrols utilized in your state?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how are they used?

Are BUI checkpoints utilized in your state?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how are they used?

Alcohol Testing for BUI

Does your state allow blood tests to determine BAC or BUI?

Yes

Does your state allow breath tests to determine BAC or BUI?

Yes

Does your state allow urine tests to determine BAC or BUI?

Yes

Test Usage in Criminal Evidence

Blood

X

Breath

X

Urine

X

Field Sobriety Tests

Does your state require field sobriety tests to be conducted on shore?

No

Other, please specify

Can refusal of a test be used against a boater in criminal prosecution in your state?

No

Other, please specify

Do marine officers utilize random BUI inspections that include boarding the boat in your state?

No

Negligent Operation of a Vessel

Does your state allow officers to issue citations for negligent operation of a vessel?

Yes

Portable BUI Equipment

Does your state allow the use of hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment?

Yes

Does your state allow the use of hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment to be used for probable cause?

No

Does your state allow the use of hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment to be used for evidentiary purposes?

No

What percentage of law enforcement officers have access to hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment in your state?

1%

Probable Cause

Does state law require probable cause for marine officers to stop a vessel?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Under BUI statutes-yes to a point; no-equip & saf

Does state law require probable cause for marine officers to board a vessel?

Other, please specify

Towing Distressed Vessels

Do marine officers utilize random safety inspections that include boarding the boat in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

Are marine officers allowed to tow vessels in distress in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

Are seaplanes "on the water" treated as vessels in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

Liability Insurance

Does your state mandate liability insurance for boaters?

No

On-Water Pursuits

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on on-water pursuit?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interstate on-water pursuit?

No

Transporting Subjects, Accident Victims, Guests

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on transporting subjects?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on transporting accident victims?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on transporting guests?

Yes

Officer Safety

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on requiring officers to wear Coast Guard-approved PFDs?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on skin care safety for officers?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on hearing safety for officers?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on back safety for officers?

No

Towing Distressed Vessels

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on towing distressed vehicles?

No

First Responders, First Aid, Good Samaritans, Search and Rescue

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on being a first responder at an accident?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on the use of first aid?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on the Good Samaritan law?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on search and rescue?

Yes

Inter-agency Interacton

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interaction with local agencies?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interaction with other state agencies?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interaction with federal agencies?

Yes

Investigation of Theft & Fraud

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on investigation of theft?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on investigation of fraud?

Yes

Employment

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on outside employment?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on substance abuse?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on off-duty responsibilities?

Yes

Firearms

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on firearms training?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on firearms training recertification?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on in-service training?

No

Deadly Force

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on use of deadly force?

Yes

Volunteers

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on use of volunteers?

No

BUI Checkpoints

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on use of BUI checkpoints?

No

Patrol Time

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on on-water patrol time as a safety factor?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on working a percentage of time on night patrol?

No

Carrying Emergency Equipment

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on carrying emergency equipment (loaner PFDs, throw lines, etc.)?

Yes