With very hot summers and mild winters, Arizona’s lakes are a great place for recreation year-round. Boating, fishing, camping – you name it. Let our Phoenix Arizona Boating Accident Lawyers explain the ins and outs of boating laws. During the warm and hot weather months there are lots of boats and lots of people on the water. Safety is a major concern. We want everyone to have a good time, and no one’s time to be ruined by a preventable accident.


The Arizona Legislature has adopted laws governing boating activities in Arizona. These can be found at Title 5, Chapter 3 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. The legislature also empowered the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to adopt regulations to effectively carry out those laws. These regulations are available on line or through the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. You can find them starting here:

We’re not going to cover all the boating laws and regulations in this blog. Our goal is to highlight a few of the most important ones directly related to safety.

Operating a motorized watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Don’t do it. The law here is virtually identical to the law prohibiting driving under the influence, and the penalties are the same. Simply put, it is illegal to operate a motorized watercraft (boat, jet ski, etc.) while you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, or while you are impaired to the slightest degree. Arizona is tough on these things, so don’t let it ruin your day.

Personal floatation devices.

Have them. You must have at least one United States Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (such as a life vest) for every person in the boat. Children 12 and under must wear them at all times. Others don’t have to wear them, but they must be readily accessible.

Overloading the boat.

Not a good idea. “The more, the merrier” may have to give way to “safety first” when boating. It is illegal to load and operate a boat “with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity or the limitations on the manufacturer’s load capacity plate.”

Pulling a person on water skis, a surfboard, inner tube, etc.

Special care is required. You must have at least two people in the boat – a driver and an observer. You also have to have a bright or brilliant orange or red flag which must be displayed prominently while skier is in the water before he begins skiing and after he falls in the water.


Generally, it is illegal to operate a watercraft in a negligent, reckless or careless manner. Normal traffic on Arizona waterways is counterclockwise. Typically, a watercraft under power must yield the right of way to a watercraft which is not under power. In addition, “[t]he are from a point directly ahead to one hundred twelve and one half degrees of the compass to the starboard [right] side of the watercraft shall to designated the danger zone. Operators of the watercraft shall yield the right of way to any other watercraft occupying or entering into this danger zone which may result in collision.”

There are numerous other boating laws covering things like registration of watercraft, required safety and other equipment for the boat, and buoys and other markings of waterways. We’ve only touched on a few of the laws here. If you are thinking about getting into boating or even a one-time excursion, you should get familiar with the laws and regulations. You don’t have to have a license to operate a boat in Arizona. But as we have seen, there are “Rules of the Water” just like there are “Rules of the Road.” If you want more information on boating laws, or if you’ve been involved in a boating accident, call us at LAW BADGERS 833.DTF.IGHT.

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