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 PWC. Particular attention must be paid to the PWC's capacity plate to determine the appropriate number of people allowed on the PWC.

Requirements Specific to PWC


Ignition Safety Switch

Every person on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD.

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

A PWC may not be operated between sunset and sunrise.

A PWC operator must always face forward.

A PWC may not be operated at faster than “slow, no wake speed” within:

  • 100 feet of any other vessel on any waterbody
  • 200 feet of shore on any lake
  • 100 feet of a dock, pier, raft, or restricted area on any lake

There are minimum age and boater education requirements for operators of PWC. See Who May Operate/Age Restrictions.

A PWC must be operated in a responsible manner. Maneuvers that endanger people or property are prohibited, including:

  • Jumping a wake with a PWC within 100 feet of another vessel
  • Operating within 100 feet of a vessel that is towing a person on water skis, inner tube, wakeboard, or similar device, or operating within 100 feet of the tow rope or person being towed
  • Weaving a PWC through congested waterway traffic
  • Steering toward another object or person in the water and swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision
  • Chasing, harassing, or disturbing wildlife with a PWC