Florida’s Reckless Boat Operation Laws
According to Florida’s reckless boat operation regulations, it is illegal to operate a boat in a reckless or negligent manner. Boaters are responsible for operating their boat in a prudent manner.
‘Reckless boat operation’ is defined as operating any boat, or manipulating any waterskis, aquaplane, or similar device, with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manner as to endanger, or likely to endanger, life or limb, or damage the property of, or injure any person.
Any person convicted of reckless operation will be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Examples of reckless operation include:
- Boating in a restricted area.
- Failing to follow the navigation rules
Reckless Operation of a Personal Watercraft (PWC)
A personal watercraft must at all times be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested boat traffic, jumping the wake of another boat while unreasonably close or when visibility around the boat is obstructed or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel.
Reckless operation is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Overloading/Exceeding Maximum Horsepower
In Florida, it is illegal to operate a mono-hulled boat that is under 20 feet in length, if the boat exceeds the maximum load capacity, maximum person capacity or maximum horsepower capacity (as displayed on the capacity plate).
Riding on a Boat’s Gunwales, Deck or Bow:
In Florida, it is illegal to allow passengers to ride on the gunwales, deck or bow, or in any other unsafe location on a boat, where there is a great risk of falling overboard.
Florida’s Laws for Boat Speed Limits and Operation in Restricted Areas
- It is illegal to operate at a speed which may endanger the life, limb or property of any person.
- Any boat operating in a zone posted as ‘Idle Speed – No Wake’ is required to operate at a minimum speed, which will only allow their boat to maintain headway and steerage.
- Any boat operating in a zone posted as ‘Slow Down – Minimum Wake’ must operate at a minimum speed (off plane) and be completely settled in the water.
- The wake of a boat is not permitted to be large enough that it can create a hazard for other boaters.
It’s illegal in the state of Florida to knowingly operate a boat, or to authorize the operation of a boat that is in violation of the restrictions of a safety zone, security zone, regulated navigation area, or naval vessel protection zone.
There are many waterways within the state of Florida which have special boating restrictions in place. Boat operators should check with their local authorities for restrictions on the waterway(s) where they plan to navigate.