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It's the Law

In addition to the laws mentioned previously, here are some other Missouri regulations that apply when vessel operators are on the water.

Negligent, Reckless, and Other Illegal Operations

Missouri law designates these dangerous operating practices as illegal.

Reckless Operation

Reckless operation of a vessel or the reckless manipulation of water skis, a wakeboard, or similar device is the failure to exercise the care necessary to prevent the endangerment of life, limb, or property of any person. Examples of illegal, reckless operation are:

  • Boating in restricted areas without regard for other boaters or persons, posted speeds and wake restrictions, diver-down flags, etc.
  • Boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Chasing, harassing, or disturbing wildlife with your vessel


It is illegal to load a vessel beyond the recommended capacity shown on the capacity plate installed by the vessel manufacturer.

Riding on the Bow, Deck, or Gunwale

Allowing passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs, seats on raised decks, or any other place where there may be a chance of falling overboard is prohibited unless the vessel has adequate guards or a railing. Guards or railings must be at least 6 inches high (not to exceed 18 inches in height) to be considered adequate.

Improper Speed or Distance

A proper speed or distance must be maintained while operating a motorboat or personal watercraft (PWC) or while towing a person on water skis or any similar device. Specifically, it is illegal to:

Operate a motorboat or PWC at speeds that may cause danger, injury, damage, or unnecessary inconvenience. Be aware of and obey all regulatory markers, including those marked as “idle speed” or “no wake.”

Operate a vessel at a speed in excess of “slow, no wake speed” within 100 feet of any emergency vessel that has red or blue emergency lights displayed.

Operate a motorboat or PWC at speeds greater than “idle speed” or “slow, no wake speed” within 100 feet of:

  • A dock or pier
  • An occupied, anchored vessel
  • A buoyed restricted area

“Idle Speed” or “Slow, No Wake Speed”

When you see these buoys or signs, they indicate a boating restricted area established to protect the safety of the public and property. In these areas, a vessel may not proceed at a speed greater than necessary to maintain steering.

Exceeding Night Speed Limit

It is illegal to operate a motorboat or PWC in excess of 30 miles per hour at any time from a half-hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise when on waters of the state.

Violating Skier-Down Flag Requirement

Violating the skier-down flag requirement is the failure to display the skier-down flag properly or the failure to keep a proper distance from a displayed skier-down flag. See Other Equipment and Regulations for more information.