Florida’s Boating and Jet Ski Safety Laws, found in Chapter 327, Florida Statutes, (Florida Vessel Safety Law) provides several reminders for us as a boating community. For the safety of all our families, please educate yourself on the following:
- Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a US Coast Guard approved, non-inflatable flotation device (PFD) – commonly called a life jacket. Personal watercrafts are defined as vessels less than 16 feet in length and using an inboard motor, which includes jet skis.
- When underway in a vessel less than 26 feet in length, all children under the age of 6 years old must wear a PFD.
- Personal watercraft may not be operated, nor can a vessel pull a skier or riders on a tube, from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used.
- Remember, both federal and state laws require the use of navigation lights from sunrise to sunset.
- A person must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft in Florida. It is a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly allow a child less than 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft.
- The operator of a vessel pulling a skier or riders on a tube must either have an observer on board, in addition to the operator or have in use a wide-angle rear-view mirror.
- It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance. For the first offense, a person found guilty is subject to a criminal fine not to exceed $1,000.00 and no more than a 6-month imprisonment. The penalty increases for subsequent offenses. A vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if his or her blood or breath alcohol level is at or above 0.08, the same as if operating a motor vehicle.
Statistics maintained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reflect that the overwhelming cause of accidents involving personal watercraft, specifically jet skis, are due to collisions with other vessels. Maneuvering a jet ski through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed is classified as the reckless operation of a vessel, punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor.
You can find Florida Statutes online free at www.leg.state.fl.us./statutes.