Boating laws in Texas are focused on promoting safety, preventing accidents and saving lives. While these regulations set forth various requirements for boat operators, they also pertain to vessels and the mandatory safety equipment for them.
When boat operators and owners fail to comply with Texas boating laws:
They can put themselves, their passengers and others on the waterways at a greater risk of accident, injury and death.
They can be liable for any wrecks or harm resulting from their noncompliance and negligence.
At the Amaro Law Firm, our lawyers have extensive experience helping the victims of boating accidents pursue the financial recoveries they deserve. Diligent, skilled and tenacious, our attorneys can help you hold all negligent parties accountable for your boating accident.
Texas Boating Laws: Rules for Operators
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD)1 oversees and enforces boating laws throughout the state. For the operators of motorboats, TPWD regulations apply to issues like (but not limited to):
Boater education – Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 is required to complete a Boater Education course in order to legally operate a personal watercraft (PWC) or a boat with a horsepower (hp) rating of at least 15 hp. Here is more information about Boater Education courses in Texas. Please note that you do not have to be a resident of Texas in order to take the Texas Boater Education course.
Boating while intoxicated – Those who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or greater can be charged with boating while intoxicated (BWI), a criminal offense similar to driving while intoxicated. In other words, it is illegal to operate boats on Texas waterways with a BAC level of 0.08 or more. While drunk boat operators can face similar (if not the same) criminal penalties as drunk drivers, they can also be liable in civil court for the accidents and harm they cause.2
Reporting boating accidents in Texas – A boat operator who is involved in an accident will be legally required to report that accident to the TPWD or a local law enforcement agency:
Within 48 hours if the incident causes death
Within 30 days if the accident caused more than $2,000 in property damage or injuries needing medical treatment more extensive than first aid.
Please be aware that these boating regulations pertain to those operating recreational motorboats from the inside of the vessel. Different laws can apply to those operating personal watercraft (PWC), meaning someone operates the vessel via sitting, standing or kneeling on it.3
Texas Boating Laws: Vessel Requirements
For vessels, Texas boating laws regulate various aspects of required safety equipment for motorboats and PWC,4 such as (but not limited to) the required:
Life-saving equipment – Personal flotation devices (PFDs) must be lifejackets that are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Children who are 12 or younger must wear a PFD when they are on a vessel that is “underway” (e.g., not anchored or aground). Also, inflatable PFDs are not acceptable for PWC or high-speed activities on waterways.
Lights – All vessels operating on Texas waterways are required to have at least one bright light, such as a lantern, a flashlight or some type of fixed light. Vessels between 12 and 20 meters long must also have special navigation lights fixed at the front of the watercraft.
Sound-producing devices – While motorboats that are less than 12 meters long must carry a whistle or horn, those longer than 12 meters must have a whistle or horn and a bell. The intent is to allow boat operators to effectively produce noise in low- or poor-visibility conditions.
Other equipment – Depending on the nature of a motorboat, other safety equipment that may be required by Texas law can include mirrors, fire extinguishers and water exhaust manifolds.
To monitor compliance with Texas boating regulations, marine enforcement officers and TPWD game wardens regularly patrol waterways and inspect vessels.
Protect the Value & Success of Your Boating Accident Claim: Contact a Houston Boat Accident Lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm
A Houston boat accident lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm is ready to review your potential claim and explain your rights and options.
Call (877) 892-2797, text (281) 612-8024 or email our firm for your FREE consultation.
As experienced advocates for the injured, our attorneys have the skills, insight and resources you can rely on for exceptional representation and the highest quality legal service. Our goal is to help you successfully navigate the recovery process so you can focus on healing and restoring your life in the aftermath of a boating accident.
The Amaro Law Firm’s history of extraordinary representation and success in boat accident (and other personal injury) claims has earned us glowing testimonials from former clients, as well as 5-star ratings on Google and Facebook.
The Amaro Law offers free virtual and mobile consultations to provide helpful legal advice and essential answers to those with potential boat accident claims. During your consultation, you can get priceless information regarding your rights and how to proceed with a claim.