California Boating Laws and Regulations

Is a Boater Card Needed to Operate in California Waters?

California contains beautiful and amazing coastlines, lakes, and waterways. The water venues are endless and are guided by different California boating laws.

For one to be allowed to operate a motorized vessel on a state waterway, they are required to have a California Boater Card. The card is proof that an individual has gone through an approved Boating Safety Course. Every year, a new age group is added to those who are required to have a valid California Boating Card. After being issued, the card becomes valid for a boat operator’s lifetime. It is not like a California driver’s license because you don’t have to renew it.

California law requires all boats, either human-powered or motorized, to carry Coast Guard-approved life jackets enough to be worn by every passenger on board. Children less than 13 years of age must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket on a moving recreational vessel of any length. The life jacket should be in the correct size, good condition and properly secured.

California law prohibits the operation of a recreational boat or motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 per cent or higher. People less than 21 years of age can be convicted for operating a motor vehicle or a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 per cent or more and can receive fines of up to $100 for a first offense. An adult, 21 years of age or older, convicted for operating a boat while under the influence can face fines of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. A person, less than 21 years of age, can be fined up to $250 and can also be required to participate in community service or an alcohol education program.

California boating law states that operators of vessels involved in an accident also have the same obligations as motorists involved in an accident. They have a responsibility to stay, render assistance, or give information about injuries or property loss. A vessel operator should inform the California law enforcement if an accident results in death or disappearance of a person.


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