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Reckless Boating Operation Regulations in Florida

November 30, 2022

While pleasure craft operators in Florida are not all required to take a boating safety course, they are nevertheless obliged to familiarize themselves with safe boating practices and vessel regulations. Boaters are responsible for operating their vessel safely and in compliance with state law. Find out what the state of Florida considers reckless boating and what the associated penalties are.

Reckless operation of a vessel: the law

According to Florida boating law, it is illegal to willfully operate any vessel in a manner that endangers people or property. Doing so is considered reckless operation of a vessel, a first-degree misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Careless operation

Those who fail to operate their vessel in an appropriately prudent manner may be cited for careless operation, a non-criminal infraction which may carry a fine but no jail time.

Examples of reckless operation

Examples of reckless vessel operation in Florida include, but are not limited to:

  • Operating a vessel at dangerously high speeds
  • Weaving through boat traffic on a waterway
  • Intentionally heading towards another vessel on a collision course and swerving at the last moment
  • Towing a water skiing or aquaplaning individual in a manner that puts them at risk of a collision
  • Allowing passengers to ride on the gunwales, bow, or any other unsafe location that puts them at risk of falling overboard while underway
  • Overloading a vessel (exceeding the listed capacity)
  • Not having the required safety equipment on board
  • Boating in a restricted area
  • Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Learn more about boating laws with Drive a Boat USA

Recklessly operating a vessel is a violation of state law that could have serious consequences for you and those around you. It’s important to boat carefully, avoid risky behaviours and act with respect and care for other waterway users.

If you feel like you need to learn more about Florida’s boating regulations and how to stay safe on the water, consider taking a US boat safety course, even if it’s not required for your age group. Drive a Boat USA’s convenient online course can teach you everything you need to know to pass the Florida boat exam and operate your vessel in compliance with state law. Start your studies today!