FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Is It Legal to Let My Kids Drive My Boat?

With summer winding down, you're probably trying to squeeze in as much time out on the water as you can before it gets too cold. And whether it's fishing, water skiing, or just cruising, on lakes, rivers, or the open ocean, that time on the water likely includes family.

You want to let your kids have fun on the boat, and you probably want to get them some experience at the helm, but can your children be too young to drive your boat? And what are the penalties for underage boating?

Boating Out West

Just like with driving cars, all states regulate who can operate boats, although those regulations are more apt to vary from state-to-state. For instance, California boating laws prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from operating a motorboat of more than 15 horsepower. All Golden State power boaters under the age of 20 must complete a state-approved course, and even those operating any boat with 10 horsepower or greater engine need to obtain a boating safety certificate if they were born after January 1, 1998.

Children younger than 16 may still operate sailboats under 30 feet in length, vessels used to move between a moored boat and shore or another boat, or other boats so long as they are between the ages of 12 and 15 and under the supervision of an adult aged 18 or older.

Boating Down South

In the Sunshine State, anyone born after January 1, 1988 who wants to operate a boat with 10 horsepower or greater in Florida must first pass an approved safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education ID Card.

Texas, on the other hand, doesn't issue boating licenses, but has age and education requirements for operating certain vessels. Children under the age of 13 may only operate a boat under the supervision of a person over the age of 18, who is onboard and qualified to operate the boat in question. Those over the age of 13 and older may operate a boat without supervision if they have passed a boater education course and are carrying their Boater Education Card.

So before handing over the wheel to junior while out on the water, make sure you look at your state's boating regulations and requirements.

Related Resources: