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.

Montana

Question

Data

Commercial Vessels

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

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Enforce safety & registration just like recreation

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

Other, please specify

Enforce safety & registration jult like recreation

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

White Water

Does your state regulate vessel operation in white water areas?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

On specific rivers

Does your state regulate commercial white water operations?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

On specific rivers

Search & Rescue

Does your agency have a dive team?

No

Other, please specify

What agency is responsible for Search and Rescue operations?

The local Sheriff's office where the S&R operation is taking place.

What agency is responsible for victim recovery?

The local Sheriff's office where the recovery is taking place.

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?

Youth 13 and 14 years of age must either complete a boating education course or be accompanied by an adult in order to operate a motorboat or PWC with a motor greater than 10 horsepower.

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?

No

Other, please specify

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.

NA

Exams and License/Certificate Issuance

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

Yes

Other, please specify

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

70%

Providers of Education Courses

State Agency

X

US Coast Guard Auxiliary

X

US Power Squadrons

Public School System

Private Company

Other, please specify

internet providers

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?

Yes

Other, please specify

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

Yes

Other, please specify

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?

13 years of age

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

Yes

Mandatory Boat Operator Licensing

Does your state require mandatory boat operator licensing?

No

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.

For motorboats over 10 hp: 0-12 must be accompanied by and adult, 13-14 must have certificate or be accompanied by adult, 15+ no requirements.

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.

For PWC over 10 hp: 0-12 must be accompanied by and adult, 13-14 must have certificate or be accompanied by adult, 15+ no requirements.

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?

Courses that are NASBLA approved.

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?

Yes

Other, please specify

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

Forever.

Challenge Exams

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

No

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?

Yes

Other, please specify

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

No

Other, please specify

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.

sunset & 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.

90 dbA or less when measured at a distance of 1 meter from the muffler at idle speed. (SAE J2005) Flathead Lake, Echo Lake and Swan Lake can not exceed 75dbA measured at the Shoreline (SAE J1970)

Is there a factory muffling alteration law in your state?

Yes

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

The muffler may not be modified or altered, such as by a cutout.

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?

No

Other, please specify

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

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

holding system sealed to prevent discharge

Marine Sanitation Devices

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

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

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

fine of not less than $15 or more than $500 or by imprisonment for a term up to 6 months, or both

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?

No

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

Does your state prohibit PWC operation at any specific times?

No

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

Appropriate lights required after dark

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 an observer

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?

No

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

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

Yes

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

crossing or jumping the wak of another vessel when within 100 yards of the vessel or within 100 yards of a waterskier being towed by a vessel

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?

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

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

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

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?

No

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

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

Breath

Urine

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?

Yes

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?

Yes

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?

unknown

Probable Cause

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

No

Other, please specify

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

No

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?

No

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?

No

Inter-agency Interacton

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

No

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

No

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

No

Investigation of Theft & Fraud

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

No

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

No

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?

No

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?

Yes

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?

Yes

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?

No

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.)?

are not loaners.