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Campfire Collective Apr 7th, 2017

Virginia Boating Laws and Regulations

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Who needs a Virginia Boater Education Card?

A Virginia Boater Education Card is NOT the same thing as a Virginia driver’s license. Your Boater Education Card, more commonly known as a “boating license” proves that you have taken an approved Boating Safety Course. In Virginia, a Boater Education Card is required for all boaters who are 46 years of age or under, and for all PWC operators, regardless of age.

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All boaters (including paddlers) are required to carry at least one, Coast Guard approved, Type I, II or III life jacket when operating on Virginia’s waters.

Even though adults are not required to wear life jackets at all times while boating, you should always WEAR IT Virginia!

In Virginia, children 13 years of age and under are required to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket when underway on any boat, unless the the child is below decks or in an enclosed cabin. It’s the law for kids to WEAR IT!


All PWC operators in the state of Virginia are required to have taken an approved Virginia Boating Safety Course and have obtained a Virginia Boater Education Card. There are no exceptions and this law applies regardless of age or experience.


In Virginia, it’s illegal to operate any boat (including any type of paddle craft) while under the influence of an intoxicating substance, such as drugs and/or alcohol.

A boat operator will be considered to be under the influence in Virginia if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher; OR if they are under the age of 21 and have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.02% or higher.

You can learn more about the risks of boating with alcohol by taking the BOATsmart! Boating Safety Course.

If convicted of boating while under the influence (BUI) of alcohol and/or drugs in Virginia, the boat operator will be subject to a fine up to $2,500, up to 12 months imprisonment, they will lose their boat operator privileges for at least 12 months and they may also be required to attend an Alcohol Safety Action Program in Virginia. Why take the risk? Stay safe and stay sober, boat operators.


If you’ve been involved in a boating accident in Virginia, you’ll be required to submit a Boat Accident Report within 48 hours, to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, if:
• A boat passenger is injured and unable to perform usual activities
• A person is killed
• A person has disappeared from the boat.

If there is boat equipment damage beyond $2,000, the written report must be filed within 10 days.

You can obtain an official Virginia Boating Accident Report Form from: https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/boating_accident_form.pdf.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries CONTACT INFORMATION

The BOATsmart! Course has been approved by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. For more information about safe boating in Virginia, contact the Department at:

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street, P.O. Box 11104
Richmond, Virginia 23230
(804) 367-1000

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