Safe Boat Operation

Operator Responsibilities

Operator Responsibilities

So that all boaters can exercise their right to use and enjoy U.S. waterways, each boater must take care to share the water safely with others. A boat operator is fully responsible for ensuring and maintaining proficiency and situational awareness at all times. Boaters must work diligently to ensure the safety of anyone aboard the vessel and those that may come into contact with it, as well as of all activities aboard the boat.

On average, three-quarters of all reported U.S. boating accidents involve factors that were within the operator’s control. The most common factors are careless boat operation, operator inexperience, high travel speeds, operator distraction and movement of passengers onboard.

In a concerted attempt to avoid such accidents, boat operators should:

Complete a boating safety course

Gain a full understanding of the specific characteristics of his/her boat, including operation and handling tendencies

Ensure that the boat is in good operating condition and that all safety equipment is on board and in good working order.

Have a clear understanding of their location and how to come and go to their destination, sharing this information with a relative or friend in a float plan

Keep an eye out for environmental dangers such as changing weather, local hazards and submerged obstacles

Control boat noise

Follow all federal and state laws, as well as the navigational “Rules of the Road”

Maintain a safe speed at all times

Avoid the use of drugs or alcohol while operating a vessel and remain alert

Make sure that all passengers are wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while on the water

Boaters must also always abide by security measures prescribed by U.S. Homeland Security, which include staying a prescribed and safe distance away from all military (100 yards minimum distance and minimum speed within 500 yards) and commercial ships, staying clear of security zones, reporting suspicious behavior to authorities and avoiding commercial port areas.

Safe distance from a military ship

This section expands on the various regulations and responsibilities that govern the activity of boats when in the water. The objective of this section is to enable boaters to know and enact the various safety regulations that have been established. This boating course in only the beginning of a boater’s education, and many additional courses and resources are available to help operators better understand how to boat safely.