BOATsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 04 - Safe Responsible Boat Operation

Negligent, Careless or Reckless Boat Operation

It is against federal law to operate your boat in a negligent, careless or reckless manner, or to interfere with the safe operation of another boat so as to endanger people’s lives or personal property.

Operator inattention and inexperience are two main factors that can result in the negligent operation of a boat. Boat operators found guilty of this crime may be fined up to $5,000, may be imprisoned for one year, or may face both penalties. Actions that may constitute negligent operation may include: 

  • Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Operating a boat in a designated swimming area or restricted zone.
  • Hazardous water sports practices, such as chasing other boats to use their wake.
  • Not safely controlling the speed of your boat. 
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