Florida Jet Ski Driving Laws

By Gerard S. Walen
Florida laws, the operation, Jet Skis, other personal watercraft

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Florida has many great locations to jet ski. However, it is important to note that state law regulates the operation of these personal watercrafts, which include Kawasaki Jet Ski's, Yamaha's WaveRunners and any motorboats less than 16 feet long that use an inboard motor powering a jet pump and are designed to be operated by a person sitting or standing. These laws addressing personal watercraft use are in place to help ensure the safety of operators and other boaters.

Age Restrictions

To use a personal watercraft in Florida, the operator must be at least 14 years old. Anyone who rents one must be at least 18 years old. Allowing a person younger than 14 to operate a personal watercraft in Florida is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Personal Safety

State law requires that anyone operating, riding on or being towed by a personal watercraft must wear an approved personal flotation device, or PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed for personal watercraft. If the manufacturer provides an engine cutoff switch (most do), the operator must attach it with a lanyard to her body, clothing or PFD.

Operation

Florida law prohibits operating a personal watercraft from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise even if the vessel has navigation lights. The law also prohibits operators from weaving a personal watercraft through congested boat traffic, jumping another vessel’s wake too closely or when another vessel obstructs vision, and deliberately powering toward a collision and swerving at the last moment. Such behaviors are considered reckless operation of a vessel, which is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Other Requirements

In Florida, specific requirements apply to anyone who was born on or after January 1, 1998, who wants to lawfully operate a vessel of any type that is powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more, including personal watercraft. Such a person must successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administration-approved boating education course or have passed a course equivalency or temporary certificate examination. After completing those requirements, the operator must have in possession a boating education identification card and a photo ID while operating the vessel.

About the Author

Gerard Walen started writing professionally more than 16 years ago. He's been published in "The Tampa Tribune," Sunbelt newspapers, the "Sarasota Herald-Tribune" and college publications. He wrote a story for the Hillsborough Community College "Triad" magazine that was named the 1997 ACP/LA Times Story of the Year. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from the University of South Florida.

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