An Overview of Boating Laws in Wisconsin

Before you head out to the lake, it’s important you are aware of Wisconsin’s boating laws.

In the state of Wisconsin, anyone born after 1989 is required to have a boating safety certification card when driving a motorboat or personal motorized watercraft. Those born prior to 1989 are exempt from the certification. No certification card is necessary when operating a canoe, kayak, paddleboard or sailboats that don’t have motors.

No one under 10 years old can legally operate a boat. Those between the ages of 10 – 11 can operate a boat as long as they are accompanied by someone who is certified or was born prior to 1989. Once a child is 12, they can drive motorboats and personal watercraft without an adult as long as they have their boating safety certification.

It’s important to note that children under 12 cannot operate personal watercraft like jet skis or wave runners.

While you are not required to wear a life jacket on board, you must have one flotation device for each person who is on the boat. If you have passengers that are under the age of 13, they will need to wear a life jacket. If you’re driving a personal watercraft, you also are required to wear a life jacket at all times.

According to the law, you cannot drink and drive a boat or water ski. Anyone who drives a boat has, according to the law, given automatic consent to being given a breathalyzer or operating-while-under-the-influence tests if pulled over.

Finally, be certain your boat is properly registered and that the registration number and expiration decal are properly displayed on the front portion of the boat. Non-motorized craft (kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and non-motorized sailboats less than 12’ long) do not need to be registered.

By Tlusty Law

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