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Boating Safety Regulations

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Operators of all vessels must comply with the requirements for the type and use of lights when anchored or underway from sunset to sunrise, or during times of limited visibility.



Vessels less than 16 feet in length will have aboard a Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device for each person. Vessels 16 feet and over in length shall have aboard a U. S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device for each person and at least one Type IV on board as a throwable device. The Type V personal flotation device must be worn to be acceptable.

All persons under eight years of age, on any vessel, must, at all times, wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device that must be strapped, snapped or zipped securely in place; except, no personal flotation device is required when inside an enclosed cabin or enclosed sleeping space.


No person shall operate or give permission to operate any vessel less than 24 feet in length, having an open cockpit and having more than 50 horsepower, unless said vessel is equipped with an emergency engine or motor shut-off switch. The cut-off switch must be a lanyard-type and must be attached to the person, clothing or personal flotation device of the operator.



  1. Operating a vessel or personal watercraft under the age of 12 (check 2001 changes).
  2. Operating a vessel in such a manner and at a rate of speed as will create a hazardous wash or wake when approaching or passing another vessel or when entering or leaving a harbor or marina area.
  3. Operating a vessel towing a person or persons on water skis, or an aquaplane or similar device unless there is in the vessel a person, in addition to the operator, who is at least 12 years of age and is observing and is capable of communicating to the operator the progress of the person being towed or unless the vessel is equipped with a wide-angle mirror with a viewing surface of at least 78 square inches and a field of vision of at least 170 degrees.
  4. Motor boats generally yield right-of-way to non-motor powered boats.
  5. Vessels yielding right-of-way shall reduce speed, stop, reverse or alter course to avoid collision.
  6. Vessel with right-of-way shall hold course and speed. If there is danger of collision, all vessels will slow down, stop or reverse until danger is averted.
  7. Vessels approaching or passing another vessel must be operated in such manner and at such rate of speed as will not create a hazardous wash or wake.
  8. All vessels must be operated at reasonable speeds for given situations and must be under the complete control of the operator at all times.


It is unlawful to operate a vessel in a reckless manner upon the waters of this state. A person is guilty of reckless operation when he operates any vessel or manipulates any water skis or any other marine transportation device upon the waters of this state in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manner to endanger or likely to endanger life or limb or property or cause injury to any person.



It is unlawful to operate a vessel in a careless manner upon the waters of this State. Careless operation is the endangerment of life, limb or property through negligence, carelessness or inattention of the operator.


The Roberson-Archer Act and The Boating Safety Enhancement Act of 2001 mandates that no one under the age of 12 may operate a motorized vessel, and that every vessel operator be licensed and have the license in possession at the time of operation. More information on operator license requirement.

Any person who was age 40 or older on April 28, 1994 is exempt from taking an approved boating course and/or the written exam. Persons who are age exempt are still required to obtain a boat operator’s license.


  • Applicants may go to the Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Examining Office in their county of residence, where they must successfully complete a written/oral exam or show proof of exemption (certificate of completion), answer medical questions, and pay application and license fees.
  • Minors (under 21) must furnish a certified birth certificate and social security card.
  • All applicants will fill out the proper forms and pay a one-time application fee of $5 CASH to the Dept. of Public Safety. Upon successful completion of all requirements and payment of the $23.50 license renewal fee, the “V” class will be added to the applicant’s Alabama driver’s license. Non-residents or non drivers will pay a $28.50 fee ($5 application fee and $23.50 fee) to generate a vessel only card which will expire four years from date of issuance.
  • Applicants may also take an approved on-line course ( or or classroom course and present the certificate of completion to the Driver’s License Examiner’s office in lieu of taking the exam there. Any fees charged for the on-line course are in addition to the license renewal fees.
  • Failure to have a license in possession when operating a vessel can result in the issuance of a citation, with average fine and court costs of $200.


It shall be unlawful for the operator of a vessel, when the vessel is operated at or above plane speed, to position or allow the positioning of, persons or equipment, including but not limited to, seats, coolers, tackle, ski and tubing devices, in a manner that would obstruct the operator’s view, or would otherwise impair, the safe operation of the vessel while operating on the waters of the state. Sailboats and auxiliary sailboats are exempt from this section.

For more information on boating safety law and regulations, call the Marine Police Division at (334) 242-3673 or visit and click on Boating.

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