Reckless and Careless Boating in Florida

Any violation of the Federal Navigation Rules is considered a violation of Florida law by the State of Florida.

Reckless Boating

Florida watercraft operators should know the state’s safety rules and obey the law. Violations will lead to a citation for recklessly operating a vessel and can include first-degree misdemeanor charges of reckless operation.

All persons aboard a vessel must know the rules and equipment they use. If they are not, they could cause serious harm to themselves or others. The operator of a vessel is responsible for operating their vessel in compliance with other vessels, posted restrictions, and divers-down flags to ensure that people and property are not endangered. Failure to comply with this rule constitutes “careless operation,” which is not considered a criminal offense. 

Reckless actions may not necessarily lead to the violation of the law as the most serious consequence. It is, however, more important to consider the fact that they may result in serious injury or death for others, including the reckless operator.

A citation for reckless or careless operation can result from the following types of behavior:

  • The act of pulling a skier dangerously close to a fixed object or another boat
  • The act of maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through traffic in crowded areas, jumping the wake of another vessel when visibility around the vessel is impaired, or steering at the last moment to avoid a collision
  • The act of boating too fast in fog or inclement weather
  • The act of navigating your boat over the towline of another boat or of the skiers on the boat
  • Inability to comply with the requirement that the operator of a vessel towing a skier or another aquaplaning device

Careless Operation of a Personal Watercraft

All water skiers and those on personal watercraft, who operate, ride on, or are towed behind them, must wear a Coast Guard-approved wearable Type I, II, III, or V life jacket. These activities do not allow the use of inflatable PDFs.

Persons may operate a personal watercraft a half hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise, provided they have sufficient lighting on their vessel. There are some personal watercraft that do not have the proper lighting. Therefore, it is essential to check before purchasing a vessel.



Take My Boat exam on a tablet