Grab your sunglasses and sunscreen; it’s summertime in Tennessee. For the next few months, thousands will hit lakes and rivers across the state, hoping to soak up memories on the water. But before you drop your boat or jet ski into the water, you should understand boating laws to prevent your lake adventure ending up with a trip to the hospital or jail.

boat safety

Irresponsible boating leads to hundreds of deaths each year

In 2014, there were 4,064 recreational boating accidents in the U.S. that killed 610 people, injured 2,678 others, and caused about $39 million of property damages, reported the U.S. Coast Guard. Where the causes of death were known, in 78% of fatal boating accidents the victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 84% weren’t wearing life jackets. Alcohol is also the leading contributing factor in boat accidents where someone died.

TN boat safety requirements

According to Tennessee law, it’s illegal for people to operate a vessel – even sailboats – if they’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Just like the rules of the road, if a vessel’s operator has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or greater, they’re boating under the influences. If an officer arrests you for operating a boat while under the influence, you could pay fines up to $2,500. A judge could also sentence you to nearly a year in jail or order you not to operate a boat for one to 10 years.

Reckless boat driving is also one of the most serious offenses on Tennessee waters. If caught, you could have to pay $2,500 in fines and spend six months in jail. The U.S. Coast Guard could also make you pay up to $5,000 and send you to prison for a year.

Examples of reckless of operation:

  • Operating a vessel in swimming areas.
  • Excessive speed in crowded areas, dangerous areas or during restricted visibility.
  • Operating an overloaded vessel.
  • Towing a skier in a crowded area where a fallen skier is likely to be hit by other vessels or towing in areas where the skier is likely to strike an obstacle.
  • Using a personal watercraft to jump the immediate wake of another vessel.

If an officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency suspects that someone has broken the law, they have the right to stop and board any vessel. TWRA officers can also arrest anyone they see violating the law without a warrant.

Did you know?

Here’s a rule not many know that can get you in trouble: Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1989 must have completed a boating safety exam administered by the TWRA to drive a boat alone. So if your teenager or young adult wants to take your boat for a spin alone, he or she must have passed the exam and a have a state-issued card proving successful completion.

For any questions or additional information, reach out to our Knoxville personal injury lawyers today.

Victim of a boating accident? Get the compensation you deserve.

If you’re the victim of a boating accident, it can be difficult to get the compensation you deserve. In Tennessee, officials will only consider a boating accident “reportable” if a person gets treatment beyond first aid or the incident causes at least $2,000 worth of damage.

At the law offices of Hotz and Associates, our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you determine what relief is available to you.

For a free consultation, email, chat with us online, or give us a call at 865-637-9000.