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What to know before you take your boat out this summer

Being out on the water is a great way to spend a day. Ohio has some particularly beautiful rivers and lakes to get out and enjoy your boat on. However, enjoying the freedom of the open water also means respecting your fellow boaters and complying with Ohio boat operating laws.

Boat conditions must be safe

Depending on where you are boating, different bodies of water have different regulations regarding boat horsepower and speed limits. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has general rules that guide the operation of a boat. If a law enforcement officer sees any of the hazardous conditions below, the officer can direct the boat operator to correct the issue or return the boat to shore. According to the DNR, failure to comply with these requests is a violation of the Ohio Revised Code.

  • Not enough flotation devices
  • Lack of fire extinguishers
  • Navigation lights not working properly
  • Any fuel leaks
  • Lack of ventilation
  • Overloaded freeboard
  • Insufficient backfire flame maintenance
  • Overabundance of gas in the bilges

Boat operators must drive responsibly

Boat operators must also drive their boats in a responsible manner. While airborne, a boat operator is not allowed to cross the wake of another boat at 100 feet or less. The driver of a boat must not drive so fast or so close to another vessel, or person being towed, that either boat would need to swerve to avoid a crash. A boat operator should also not swerve in and out of crowded traffic, or follow less than 200 feet behind a water skier. Any of these behaviors are a violation of Ohio boating safety restrictions.

Operators cannot be intoxicated

Like driving a car, a boat operator is prohibited from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A BAC of .08 or more is considered over the legal limit for driving a boat. A first-time offender for boating under the influence faces a punishment of 3 days to up to 6 months in jail. Fines range for $150 to $1,000. Anyone that refuses to take a sobriety test is prevented from operating a boat, water ski, or even registering a boat for one year. If the person who refuses the test owns the boat, the registration and tags are also forfeited for a year.

Boating is wonderful way to enjoy the summer months. If you comply with these safety regulations, it will help keep you, your passengers, and your fellow boaters safe from injury.

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