Before Utah residents flock to reservoirs and lakes to cool off from the scorching summer temperatures, they should be informed of current boating laws in order to avoid tickets or criminal charges.
Oasis in the desert
Utah is unique in the way it handles its lakes and reservoirs. Instead of divvying up the beachfront property and selling it to the highest bidders as other states do, the State of Utah has instead created several public parks for all Utah residents and guest to enjoy. Most, if not all of these bodies of water have boat access points which allow visitors to experience the water away from the beach. According to a boating map by The Utah Department of Natural Resources, there are 32 different areas on lakes and reservoirs in Utah where watercraft is permitted.
Boating laws in Utah
While operating water on Utah waters is open to the public with a small entrance fee, the Department of Natural Resources reminds residents that there are boating laws and regulations that must be followed to ensure all lake-goers are legal, educated, and safe. Some of the basics are:
• Registration and education. All watercraft with a motor or sail must have current registration on board the vessel when in use with the decals located on the front half of the boat on either the port or starboard side. Those operating boats should attend education courses although the classes are required only for PWC operators 12-17 years of age.
• Lifejackets. Everyone is encouraged to use a lifejacket when on a boat, but for those 12 and under, coast guard approved life jackets are mandatory. Lifejackets are also required for anyone using jet skis, or being pulled by a boat on skis, wakeboards, or floatable devices.
• Equipment. Depending on the boat size, there are required equipment items that should be on board including: fire extinguishers, throwable floatation device, lights, registration and insurance, as well as other items that can be viewed at stateparks.utah.gov.
• Drunk boating. Driving drunk is against the law whether or not the person is driving a car or a boat. While alcohol is allowed on board unlike in a vehicle, the person operating the boat should refrain from alcohol consumption to avoid criminal charges.
• Passengers in the boat. Anyone in the boat should be sitting down inside the boat when the boat is creating wake and not on the bow decking or other areas where they could fall out or obstruct the view of the driver.
• Individuals being pulled by the boat on water skis, etc are only permitted during daylight hours and must be observed by an individual other than the driver who is eight years and older. That observer must have 1 square foot orange flag ready to display when the person being towed is no longer in motion.
• Speed limits. A boat must be idle if in a non-wake area or if within 150 feet of “another boat, a person in the water, a water skier, shore angler, launch ramp, dock, or other designated swimming areas.”
• Stay at the scene. In the case of an accident, boaters should treat it just as they would a road vehicle accident. Exchange information, help the other boaters and passengers, and call law enforcement if the accident is serious enough to produce injury, death, or property damage above a $2000 value.
• Department of Natural Resources also instructs boaters to watch the weather and be aware of passengers near the back of the boat who may be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or propeller injury.
Counsel for boating crimes
Criminal charges accrued while boating are no different than those on land. BUI (boating under the influence), boating without registration or insurance, reckless endangerment, or automobile homicide are all serious charges that those operating boats could face. It is imperative to seek legal counsel should any charges occur while boating. For a full list of all boating laws and regulations, visit the Utah State Parks Division online.