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Wisconsin Age Requirements for Boat Operators

In Florida, the search continues for two boys who disappeared while fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. The boys, although only 14 years of age, were legally operating the boat, as Florida law states that boat operators must be at least 14.

This story sheds light on state legislation that allows very young children to operate motorized boats without adult supervision. Under Wisconsin law, children even younger than 14 are allowed to operate a boat alone if certain requirements are met.

Wisconsin Boating Regulations for Motorboats

•· Under 10 years of age: may not operate a motorboat

•· 10-11 years of age: may only operate a motorboat if accompanied by a parent, guardian, or person 18 years old or older who is designated by the parent or guardian

•· 12-15 years of age: may operate a motorboat if he or she has completed a Wisconsin DNR accepted boating safety course OR if accompanied by a parent, guardian, or person 18 years old or older who is designated by the parent or guardian

•· 16 years of age or older: may operate a motorboat only if he or she has completed a Wisconsin DNR accepted boating safety course (individuals born before January 1, 1989, are exempt from this requirement)

Wisconsin Boating Regulations for Personal Watercraft (PWC)

•· Under 12 years of age: may not operate a PWC

•· 12-15 years of age: may operate a PWC only if he or she has completed a Wisconsin DNR accepted boating safety course

•· 16 years of age or older: may operate a PWC only if he or she has completed a Wisconsin DNR accepted boating safety course (individuals born before January 1, 1989, are exempt from this requirement)

Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safe This Boating Season

•· Make sure all children wear life jackets while on the boat

•· Enroll your children in a boat safety class

•· Accompany your children on all boating trips

Sources: Wis. Stat. Ch. 30 (2013-14); Ed Payne & Catherine E. Shoichet, Coast Guard Search for Missing Teens Intensifies, but Time Is Short, CNN (July 28, 2015); Handbook of Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsibilities (2013).

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Godfrey, Leibsle,
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