Virginia’s Laws for Negligent or Reckless Boat Operation

It is illegal in the state of Virginia to operate any motorized boat or vessel, or to manipulate any waterskis, surfboard, stand up or prone paddleboards, self-propelled watercraft, or similar device, in a reckless manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person.

Examples of reckless boat operation may include:

  • Weaving through congested boat traffic.
  • Operating in a restricted area.
  • Overloading a boat beyond its safe carrying capacity.

Additionally, it is illegal to allow any person to ride or sit on the bow, gunwale or transom, or on the decking over the bow of the boat while underway. This law does not apply to those who must be in those locations to moor, anchor or cast off the boat. It also does not apply if the boat is equipped with adequate guards or railings to prevent passengers from falling overboard.

Reckless boat operation 

Laws for Boat Speed Limits and Operation in Restricted Areas

It is illegal in the state of Virginia to operate a boat in a restricted area. Additionally, boat operators in the state of Virginia are required to reduce their speed in order to avoid endangering persons or property with the effect of their wake when they are approaching or passing:

  • Boats that are underway, lying to, at anchor, or made fast to shore.
  • Piers, docks or boat houses.
  • Persons in the water or persons using waterskis or surfboards.
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