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It's the Law


PWC operators must obey the laws that apply to other vessels as well as obey additional requirements that apply specifically to the operation of personal watercraft.

Requirements Specific to PWCs


Each person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device that is impact rated for the maximum speed of the PWC.

An operator of a PWC equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or PFD.

It is illegal to operate a PWC between sunset and sunrise or during periods of restricted visibility (such as fog) unless the PWC comes equipped by the manufacturer with the required navigation lights.

PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner at all times.

For example, it is illegal to:

  • Weave your PWC through congested traffic.
  • Jump the wake of another vessel at an unsafe distance from the other vessel.
  • Swerve at the last moment to avoid a collision in order to splash another vessel or person.
  • Operate in a way that requires another vessel to swerve at the last possible moment to avoid a collision.

A PWC operator should give way to any powerboat towing a skier by altering course and/or reducing speed to five miles per hour.

It is illegal to chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with a PWC.

Illegal wake-jumping on a PWC