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Campfire Collective Apr 13th, 2019

Tennessee Boating Laws and Regulations

Who needs a Tennessee Boater Education Card?

You need education if you were born after January 1st, 1989 and will be operating a motorized vessel over 8.5 hp in Tennessee.

A Tennessee Boater Education Card is NOT the same thing as your motor vehicle driver’s licence. The Boater Card, commonly referred to as a “boating license” is proof that you have taken a boater safety course and have gained the boating skills needed to operate a boat safely on Tennessee’s waterways. Get certified and hit the water with confidence!

How do I get my Tennessee Boater Education Card?

You can get your Tennessee Boater Education Card one of the following ways:

  • Take an online Boater Safety Course, like the BOATsmart! Tennessee Boating Safety Course and then sign up to take the in-person test with a representative of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
  • Take a classroom Boater Safety Education Course, instructed by an employee or volunteer of the TWRA.

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All boats operating in Tennessee (including human-powered watercraft like canoes and kayaks) are required to carry one, Coast Guard Approved, wearable life jacket or PFD for each passenger on board the boat. Adults are not required to wear life jackets when boating however, we always encourage all boaters to WEAR IT!

Additionally, boats greater than 16 feet in length are also required to carry one, Coast Guard Approved, Type IV (throwable) device on board at all times.

Children in Tennessee that are 12 years of age and under are required to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket when on the open deck of a recreational boat. WEAR IT Tennessee!


In Tennessee, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol, an inhalant, controlled substances or any combination thereof.

You will be considered ‘intoxicated’ or ‘under the influence’ if your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level is 0.08 or higher. Additionally, Tennessee boaters convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to a minimum fine of $2,500.

Learn more about the risks of boating with alcohol by taking the BOATsmart! Tennessee Boating Safety Course.


Boaters who have been involved in a boat accident in Tennessee are required to submit an official Boat Accident Report Form to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). If a boat passenger is injured and required medical attention, has been killed or has disappeared from the boat, you must submit the Boat Accident Report Form within 48 hours of the occurrence. You will have 10 days to report any property damage that exceeds $2,000. Stay safe out there, boaters!

Contact the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to obtain a Boat Accident Report Form.


The BOATsmart! Course has been approved by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. For more information about boating in Tennessee, contact the Agency at:

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
PO Box 40747
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 781-6500

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