Boater Safety Law

Tennessee Personal Injury Law: Boater Safety Law

Silhouette of bass fisherman in the early light of dawn.  Mist over the lake, pre-sunrise.  Taken in the Autumn on Lake. Boater safety laws concept,

Tennessee has a wealth of water, which means we also have an abundance of recreational boaters. In order to prevent accidents involving collisions, falls overboard, accidental drowning as well as other hazards that come along with recreational boating, Tennessee has numerous boater safety laws. These boating regulations and safety guidelines mandated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) encompasses everything from reckless boat operation to instructions on how to handle a boating collision.

Tennessee Boating Accidents & Injuries

The accomplished boating accident attorneys at InjuryTN know that every boater has a responsibility to maintaining the working order and appropriate equipment of their vessel. Tennessee boating laws are established to make sure that drivers, passengers, swimmers, and wildlife are protected. In the event that these laws are disregarded, sever injuries or even death are prone to occur. While Tennessee’s Wildlife Resources Agency has published that an average of 49 boating accidents occur every year, numerous injuries still occur unreported. Diminishing these numbers will require all boaters to abide by all state boating safety regulations in addition to exercising a reasonable amount of caution.

Tennessee Boating Laws

Most Tennessee waterways are governed by laws that are established to ensure the safety of all boaters as well as their passengers. Such laws include:

  • No Wake (Idle Speed) Areas: These areas are designated so that vessels traveling through must restrict their speed so that the boat or its wake is not sufficient enough to cause injury or damage to others or their property.
  • Boating Equipment: Every boat, including kayaks and canoes, is required to have one Personal Flotation Device (PFD) per person on the boat or being towed by the boat. Boats larger than 16ft in length are required to have at least one throwable PFD per boat in the event of a fall overboard. Different boat types may require additional equipment, check here for more information.
  • Boating Under the Influence: Operating a boat or sail while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited in Tennessee. Offenses for boating under the influence can result in fines of up to $2,500 in addition to a jail sentence.

Boating Under the Influence

It is against the law to commandeer a water vessel in Tennessee wile intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The TWRA has specified that an operator is considered to be under the influence if their ordinary faculty is affected, as determined by testing the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). An individual whose blood alcohol concentration is at or above .08% or who is unable to pass field sobriety testing is considered to be under the influence. Additionally, operators of boats who are under 21 years of age and are in physical control of a vessel will be considered by law to be intoxicated if their BAC is at .02% or higher.

Repercussions for boating under the influence are not dissimilar to those one would receive for drinking and driving on public roadways, reaching a maximum fine of $2,500 for the first and second offenses, and up to $5,000 for the third offense. Any of these offenses have the potential to require up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, depending on the circumstances of the case. Furthermore, boaters who are convicted for boating under the influence may lose their boating privileges for anywhere from one to ten years.

Boating accidents which result in someone’s death are considered to be second-degree felonies, which are punishable by a maximum of 15 years in jail. In the event that the driver of the boat attempts to flee the scene of the accident without providing any form of assistance, it is considered a first-degree felony and is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in jail.

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Personal Floatation Device

Tennessee law requires children under the age of 13 to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD while onboard any recreational vessel, except when anchored, moored, or run aground. The responsibility of carrying, maintaining, storing, and using USCG approved PFDs is the lawful responsibility of the boat owner and/or operator.

Boater Safety Education Requirements

Tennessee does not require operators of water vessels to have a “boating license.” Rather, boaters who were born on or after January 1, 1989 are required to attend the TWRA Boating Safety course. Those who are able to complete the Boating Safety course will receive a Boating Safety Education Certificate, issued by the TWRA, which will need to be kept onboard the boat along with their valid photo ID. The TWRA-issued wallet Boating Safety Education Certificate will be the only form of certification accepted as proof of lawful boating operation.

There are, however, exceptions to the requirement of having the TWRA Boating Safety certification onboard with you at all times, including if the operator of the boat meets the following requirements:

  • USCG-licensed master of a vessel
  • operating their vessel on a private body of water, like lakes or ponds
  • a non-resident who holds a similar boating safety certificate from out of state
  • operating the vehicle within 90 days of its purchase
  • accompanied by an individual who is:
    • over the age of 17 and has proof of certification; or
    • exempt from requiring to obtain one and is responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle

Rules & Regulations for Personal Water Crafts

Tennessee Law requires boat operators, passengers, and those who are being towed by a personal water craft to wear USCG-approved Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) at all times. The boat’s operator is required to be a minimum of 12 years of age, or would need an accompanying person over the age of 18 who has a boating safety certificate (or was born before January 1, 1989. It shall be considered a second-degree misdemeanor for individuals who knowingly permit someone who is under this age to operate a personal water craft.

Boat operators should ensure that their engine cutoff switch lanyard is attached to their person at all times, so in the event that the operator falls overboard, the boat will not continue to run.

Reckless & Negligent Boat Operation

All boaters have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of any persons or property on or around their vessel, as well as to operate their vessel with caution and consideration for other vessels and individuals, restricted areas, diver-down flags, or any other situations with the intent of not placing personal property in danger.

Violations may either be considered a noncriminal offense or a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail, depending on the specific circumstances of the situation.

If a collision, casualty, or other accident occurs while operating a vessel, operators are required to contact emergency responders at Tennessee Wildlife Resources Administration in the quickest manner possible.

In the event that someone is seriously injured or killed because of a boat operator’s reckless or careless behavior, this event would be sufficient grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

Legal Representation for Boating Accidents

If someone has been injured or killed because of reckless or careless boat operation, it would be considered grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. The Nashville boating injury lawyers at InjuryTN are here to assist you. Contact our firm today to schedule your free and confidential consultation to start building your case and protecting your rights. All personal injury cases we take are on a contingency basis, which means there are no fees until we win your case!

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