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Introduced by   Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources


Subject:  Motor vehicles; boating; personal watercraft; education safety

Statement of purpose:  This bill would impose additional requirements on the operation of a personal watercraft in the state.  The bill proposes to require operators of personal watercraft in the state to complete a boater safety course or a boater’s proficiency examination.  The bill would also require a personal watercraft livery in the state to meet certain requirements for operation.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  23 V.S.A. § 3312a is amended to read:


(a)  A person under the age of 16 shall not operate a personal watercraft.

(b)  All persons operating or riding on a personal watercraft shall wear a Type I, II, or III United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.

(c)  Personal watercraft shall not be operated at any time during the hours between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.

(d)  Every person operating a personal watercraft equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard type engine cut-off switch shall attach the lanyard to his or her wrist, clothing, or personal flotation device as appropriate for the specific craft.

(e)  No person shall operate a personal watercraft in a reckless manner. Maneuvers which unreasonably or unnecessarily endanger life, limb, or property shall constitute a reckless manner of operation of a vessel and shall include:

(1)  Weaving through congested traffic;

(2)  Jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably or unnecessarily close to such other vessel or when visibility around such other vessel is obstructed or restricted;

(3)  Becoming airborne or completely leaving the water while crossing the wake of another vessel within 100 feet of the vessel creating the wake;

(4)  Operating at greater than slow/no-wake speed within 200 feet of a person in the water, a canoe, rowboat or other vessel, an anchored or moored vessel containing any person, a divers down flag, marked swim areas, shoreline, anchorages, or docks;

(5)  Operating contrary to navigation rules including following too closely to another vessel, including another personal watercraft.  For the purpose of this subsection, “following too closely” shall be construed as proceeding in the same direction and operating at a speed in excess of 10 mph within 100 feet to the rear, or 50 feet to the side, of another vessel which is underway, unless said vessels are operating in a narrow channel, in which case personal watercraft may operate at the speed and flow of the other vessel traffic within the channel.

(f)  Towing another person on waterskis or other towables from a personal watercraft shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements of section 3315 of this title and the total number of persons operating, observing, and being towed shall not exceed the specified number of passengers identified by the manufacturer as the maximum safe load for the vessel.

(g)  All persons operating a personal watercraft shall successfully complete either a boater safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators or a proficiency examination, offered within the state or the state of the operator’s residence, that tests the knowledge of information included in the curriculum of such a course and has received a certificate as evidence of successful completion of the course of examination.  All persons operating a personal watercraft shall have proof of completion of the boater safety course or a proficiency examination available on board the personal watercraft during its operation.  This subsection shall not apply to a person who leases, hires, or rents a personal watercraft from a personal watercraft livery subject to the requirements of subsection (i) of this section.

(h)  A personal watercraft livery operating in the state shall:

(1)  Not lease, hire, or rent a personal watercraft to or for operation by any person under 18 years of age;

(2)  Administer boating safety instruction to an operator of a leased, hired, or rented personal watercraft not having a valid safe boating certificate and valid identification; and

(3)  Supply the following to an operator of a leased, hired, or rented personal watercraft in writing:

(A)  The operational characteristics of personal watercraft;

(B)  The requirements of this section and the boating regulations peculiar to the surface water in which the personal watercraft shall be operated; and

(C)  An explanation of the common courtesies of operating a personal watercraft and the effect of the operation on wildlife, the environment, and other water users.

(i)  In accordance with section 3316 of this title, the department of public safety may exempt public regattas, motorboat or other races, marine parades, tournaments, water skiing events, or other exhibitions from the requirements of this section.

(j)  The provisions of this section shall not exempt any person from compliance with applicable federal law or regulation, but nothing contained in this section shall be construed to require a person to meet the requirements of subsection (g) of this section if the person holds a valid master’s, mate’s, or operator’s license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont