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.

Pennsylvania

Question

Data

Commercial Vessels

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

Yes

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?

Yes

Other, please specify

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?

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?

No

Other, please specify

What agency is responsible for Search and Rescue operations?

Various local organiztions

What agency is responsible for victim recovery?

Various local organiztions

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?

Operators born after January 1, 1982 to operate motorboats greater than 25 horsepower and all operators of PWC.

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.

Exams and License/Certificate Issuance

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

No

Other, please specify

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

Providers of Education Courses

State Agency

X

US Coast Guard Auxiliary

X

US Power Squadrons

X

Public School System

X

Private Company

X

Other, please specify

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?

No

Other, please specify

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

No

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?

no minimum

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.

You must be at least 12 years of age to operate a motorboat greater than 25 horsepower.

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

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?

NASBLA approved

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

Yes

Other, please specify

If issued by another state or Canada.

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?

lifetime

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?

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.

between sunset and 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?

No

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

No

Describe any other water skiing restrictions in your state.

there are too many to lis6t

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.

§ 119.5. Stationary test. (a) A person may not operate or give permission for the operation of a motorboat upon the waters of this Commonwealth that exceeds the following noise levels measured in accordance with SAE J2005: (1) A noise level of 90 dB(a) when subjected to a stationary sound level test for engines manufactured before January 1, 1993. (2) A noise level of 88 dB(a) when subjected to a stationary sound level test for engines manufactured on or after January 1, 1993. (b) Measurements will be made by a sound level meter which satisfies ANSI-S 1.4-1983, Type 2, or equivalent. (c) The noise emission test measurements shall be made with the sound level meter at a distance of at least 4 feet above the water at a point where the transom gunwale and port or starboard gunwale intersects. The vessel being tested shall operate its engine at low throttle setting in neutral gear. Personal watercraft and other boats which have no neutral gear shall operate at the lowest throttle setting with no or minimum headway motion.

Is there a factory muffling alteration law in your state?

Yes

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

§ 119.2. Mufflers. Every motorboat operated upon the waters of this Commonwealth shall be equipped with a muffler or a muffler system in good working order and in constant operation and effectively installed to prevent excessive or unusual noise. § 119.3. Prohibited acts. (a) A person may not operate and an owner may not give permission for the operation of a motorboat upon the waters of this Commonwealth that is equipped with an altered muffler or muffler cutout, bypass or other device designed or so installed so that it can be used continually or intermittently to bypass or otherwise reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of a muffler or muffler system installed under this chapter. (b) A person may not operate and an owner may not give permission to operate a boat that in the observation of two persons, one of whom shall be a waterways conservation officer, deputy waterways conservation officer or other law enforcement officer authorized to enforce the code, the sound or noise is so abnormally loud as to constitute a substantial and extraordinary annoyance or distraction to persons in the vicinity of the watercraft. (c) A person may not remove, alter or otherwise modify a muffler or muffler system in a manner which will prevent it from being operated in accordance with this chapter. § 119.4. Prohibition against sale of a vessel not equipped with a muffler in good working order. A person may not manufacture, sell or offer for sale a motorboat which is not equipped with a muffler or muffler system in good and constant working condition or which does not otherwise comply with this chapter. This chapter does not apply to power vessels designed, manufactured and sold for the sole purpose of competing in racing events and for no other purpose. An exemption or exception shall be so documented in every sales agreement and shall be formally acknowledged by signature on the part of both the buyer and seller. Copies of the agreement shall be kept by both parties. A copy shall also be kept onboard or be available when the boat is being operated. A motorboat sold under this exemption may only be operated on the waters of this Commonwealth in accordance with § 119.7 (relating to race boats).

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?

$50 fine

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

Depending on the offense $50 to $5,000

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?

NASBLA approved course

Does your state prohibit PWC operation at any specific times?

Yes

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

Sunrise and sunset

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?

one skier only must have an observer

Personal Watercraft Restrictions

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

Yes

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

Speed limits for all boats are in place on various lakes.

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.

It is unlawful to: (1) Operate a motorboat not equipped with railings or other safeguards at greater than a slow, no wake speed while a person is riding on bow decking, gunwales, transom or motor cover. It is not a violation of this paragraph to ride on the motor cover of an inboard motorboat while underway at that speed if the motor cover is designed by the manufacturer for the operator or a passenger to ride on it. (2) Operate a motorboat—less than 20 feet in length—at greater than slow, no wake speed while a person is standing on or in the boat. It is not a violation of this paragraph if the boat is designed for the operator or a passenger, or both, to stand while underway at that speed. (3) Operate or stop a boat in a marked marine event area in violation of the conditions of the event. (4) Operate or stop a boat in a manner that interferes with the conduct of a permitted marine event. (5) Cause a boat to become airborne or completely leave the water while crossing the wake of another boat when within 100 feet of the boat creating the wake.

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?

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.

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

$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?

0.02

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?

Yes

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

In high use, high profile boating areas on weekends.

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?

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?

Yes

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?

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?

No

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?

Yes

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

Yes

Transporting Subjects, Accident Victims, Guests

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

Yes

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?

Yes

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?

Yes

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?

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?

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.)?

Yes