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It is the responsibility of the operator to be aware of the most current laws when using a PWC/boat.

Certain bodies of water in Indiana have local restrictions as to type and size of watercraft or motor horsepower, restricted use areas, boat speed, and times for use. Check with the local authorities for these additional restrictions.

Requirements in Indiana may vary depending on the area in which you are boating.

  1. Boats less than 16 feet in length must have a "wearable" (Type I, II, III or V) U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) on board for each person. Boats longer than 16 feet must have the "wearable" for each person plus at least one (1) "throwable" (Type IV) PFD.

  2. A canoe or kayak over 16 feet in length is exempt from the "throwable" requirement.

    When operating on "waters of concurrent jurisdiction" (Lake Michigan, Ohio, Wabash and Great Miami Rivers) children under the age of thirteen (13) are required to wear a PFD. Exceptions would be when the child is below deck, in an enclosed cabin or if the watercraft is docked or at anchor they would not have to wear the PFD.

    Though Indiana law only requires the availability of a life jacket for every passenger, it is reasonable and prudent for the operators of any water craft to require that life jackets be worn at all times by children less than 10 years of age. This is the law in at least one neighboring state (OH).

  3. All persons must possess a valid Indiana State motor vehicle operator license before operating a powerboat on the waters of Indiana. Persons who wish to operate a powerboat and who are at least fifteen years old and do not possess a valid driver's license, may operate a powerboat if they first take an approved boating safety course and obtain a valid I.D. issued by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. U.S. Coast Guard Aux., U.S. Power Squadron and another state's boater education course certification are accepted by Indiana.

  4. No person operating a motorboat shall approach or pass another boat in a manner, or at a high rate of speed, which creates a hazardous wake or wash.

  5. Reckless operation of a boat, when a boat is operated carelessly in willful disregard of the rights, safety, or property of others, is a crime in Indiana. Examples of reckless operation include:

    • Excessive speed in regulated or congested areas or during times of restricted visibility

    • Operating in a manner that may cause an accident

    • Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs

    • Operating in a swimming area with bathers present

    • Towing water skiers where obstructions exist or a fall might cause them to be injured

    • Bow riding or riding on the gunwale or transom where no seating is provided

    • Operation of a personal watercraft which endangers life or property

  6. A person may not operate a water craft in a manner that unnecessarily endangers the person or property of another person.

  7. No person shall operate any motorboat less than two hundred (200) feet off of the shoreline, unless they're operating at idle speed.

  8. A person may not operate a water craft within one hundred and fifty (150) feet of a diver's flag.

  9. All divers must display a white diagonal stripe on a red background divers-down flag in the area in which the diving occurs. Divers shall attempt to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag. Boaters should operate with caution in the area.

  10. Every motorboat on the waters of Indiana must be registered. The expiration decals, issued by the BMV are renewed every year and must be placed to the right side of and within 3 inches of the current registration numbers. Only the current decals shall be displayed. Registration must be carried on the boat at all times. (This includes out of state boats.)

  11. All personal injury accidents and those involving $750.00 or more in property damage must be reported. A written report must be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources within 24 hours.

  12. Download a Indiana Boating Accident Report form.

    *PLEASE NOTE* Clicking this link will open the Indiana Boating Accident Report form page in a new window. Simply close that window to return to this page. *END NOTE*

  13. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol (.08 BAC) or drugs can result in the suspension of the operators Indiana drivers license by the BMV and the operator may be given jail time. The same blood-alcohol level restriction for the operation of a car applies to the operator of PWCs.

  14. Personal watercraft must have self-circling capability or a lanyard cut-off engine switch and this switch must be attached to the operator.

  15. The maximum speed limit with full running lights between sunset and sunrise is 10 mph.

  16. Personal watercraft operators are forbidden to:

    1. Weave through congested water craft traffic.

    2. Follow water skiers or any other equipment being towed by a water craft.

    3. Jump the wake of another water craft.

    4. Cut between a boat and a person or persons being towed by the boat.

    5. Steer a Personal Water Craft toward an object or individual in the water, and turn sharply at close range.

  17. A personal watercraft shall not tow an individual unless the Personal Watercraft is at least nine (9) feet long, has an observer present to monitor the person being towed, and is designed to seat three (3) people.

  18. The seats should be for:

    1. One operator

    2. One observer

    3. A seat for the skier when needed.

  19. It is unlawful to litter in Indiana state waters. Properly dispose of litter on shore.

  20. In Indiana, the discharge of sewage from marine toilets is prohibited on all public waters. A boat equipped with a toilet must have a holding tank to store the waste that can later be disposed of at a shore-side facility. The boat may use a treatment system as long as it is approved by the Department of Environmental Management.

  21. Preventing the spread of Zebra Mussels?

    1. Inspect boat and trailer for weeds and remove. Zebra mussels are often found on aquatic plants.

    2. Flush the cooling system, bilge areas, and live wells with tap water and discard all bait that may have contacted infested waters.

    3. Let your boat dry out of the water for 10-14 days. If visibly fouled by algae wash the hull with hot water (140 degrees F) which kills zebra mussels. High pressure spray will also help remove them.

For more information:
Department of Natural Resources
402 West Washington St.
Room W225D
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 232-4010

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