Mesa’s almost year-round warm and sunny weather allows for plenty of great days for breaking out the boat and heading for one of the local lakes. But as much fun as boats can be on a beautiful day, they can also cause serious injuries if handled improperly. Every year in the U.S., thousands of people are injured and hundreds die in boating accidents because of speeding, operating a boat under the influence of drugs and alcohol or inexperienced operators.

In the U.S. alone, unsafe boating practices cause thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths each year.

Just as with motor vehicles, Arizona has several laws in place to help enforce safe and proper use of boats, jet-skis and other watercraft. All boats (with a few notable exceptions) must be in compliance with the following laws:

  • Similar to motorized vehicles, all Arizona motorized watercraft must be registered with the state. Registration decals must be prominently displayed for easy identification.
  • Motorized watercraft must be properly equipped with the following:

o US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices for each person on board

o Navigational lights for vessels that operate after sunset and before sunset

o Fire extinguishers

o Ventilation systems

o Backflame arrestors for stopping fires caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors by back engines

o Mufflers

o Audio and visual distress signals

  • No person under the age of 12 is allowed to operate a watercraft powered by a motor with more than 8 horsepower, unless the person’s parent or legal guardian or at least one person over the age of 18 is present.
  • The following dangerous operating practices are prohibited in Arizona:

o Operating in restricted areas, such as swimming areas

o Allowing passengers to ride on the bow or gunwales while traveling at unsafe speeds

o Weaving in and out of congested waterway traffic

o Using the watercraft to chase, hassle or scare wildlife

  • Operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited. Boat operators caught with a level of intoxication greater than .08 could be charged with an OUI (operating under the influence), a serious offense that could result in a large fine and jail time.
  • Watercraft many not block navigation by anchoring in a spot that does not allow other watercraft to pass safely, interfere with navigational aids or obstruct boat ramps.
  • Traveling over the posted speed limit is illegal and can result in fines and other penalties.
  • Special rules apply to vessels towing skiers:

o Water skiers must wear a life jacket.

o At least two people must be on board – one to navigate the vessel and one to watch the skier.

o Water-skiing can only take place during the daylight hours.

o Watercrafts carrying skiers must maintain a safe distance from other watercraft.

o In the event that the skier falls, the observer must display a Diver Down flag that signals that the skier is below water.

  • In the event of a boat accident that results in damage or injuries, the operator is required to exchange information with the other parties involved, provide medical assistance to anyone injured and report the accident with law enforcement. Accidents that result in more than $500 worth of property damage, injuries or death must be reported to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

With operating a boat, there are numerous operational and navigational rules and safety precautions to heed. If you are unfamiliar with these rules, a boating safety course can educate you on safely operating watercraft and help reduce collisions on Arizona’s waterways.

Boating Laws You Should Know In Arizona

Arizona’s almost year-round warm weather makes for plenty of great days to go boating on one of many local lakes. However, as much fun as boating can be, they can also be quite dangerous, especially if handled improperly. Research shows that thousands of people are injured and killed every year in boating accidents in the United States. These injuries and fatalities are typically caused by speeding, inexperience or operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As with any motor vehicle, Arizona has several laws in place to ensure the proper use of boats, jet-skis and other watercrafts. All boats must be in compliance with a variety of Arizona laws, such as:

  • All motorized watercraft must be registered with the state and have registration decals prominently displayed for easy identification.
  • Motorized watercraft must be equipped with the following:
    • US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices for each person on board
    • Navigational lights if operating after sunset or before sunset
    • Ventilation systems
    • Fire extinguishers
    • Mufflers
    • Audio and visual distress signals
    • Backflame arrestors to put out possible fires caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors
    • No one under the age of 12 is allowed to operate a watercraft powered with a motor more than 8 horsepower unless their parent, legal guardian or person over the age of 18 is accompanying them.
    • Traveling over the posted speed limit is illegal and can result in fines and penalties.
    • Operating a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol is prohibited. Boat operators caught under the influence will be charged with an OUI (operating under the influence), which can result in fines and jail time.
    • In the event of a boat accident that results in damages or injuries, the operator must exchange information with the other parties involved, provide medical assistance if necessary, and report the accident to law enforcement. Accidents resulting in more than $500 worth of property damage, injuries or death must be reported to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

If you’ve been involved in a boating accident, only an attorney well versed in Arizona boating law can give you the legal guidance and protection you need. Contact us at Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience for more information.