It's the Law


Tennessee law defines a PWC as "a mechanically propelled vessel that is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel rather than being operated in a conventional manner by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling inside the vessel." 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


Everyone on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved wearable life jacket, called a personal flotation device (PFD), at all times. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use on personal watercraft.

There are age and education requirements for operators of personal watercraft. See "Who May Operate a Vessel."

PWCs must be equipped with an ignition safety switch, and the operator must attach the lanyard of the switch to his or her wrist or PFD.

Ignition Safety Switch
The PWC's lanyard must be attached to the person, clothing, or PFD of the operator.

PWCs may be operated only during daylight hours (between sunrise and sunset).

Illegal wake-jumping on a PWC
It is illegal to jump the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel.

PWCs must be operated in a safe and responsible manner.

It is illegal to:

  • Jump the immediate wake (within 100 feet) of another vessel.
  • Weave your PWC through congested waterway traffic.
  • Steer toward another object or person in the water and swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision or spray others nearby.
  • Operate the PWC close to boat ramps, docks, or the shoreline at more than idle speed.
  • Chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with your PWC.
  • Persons who allow an underage operator to use a PWC may be prosecuted.