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Negligent and Reckless Operation in Virginia

Operating a pleasure craft while failing to exercise the appropriate degree of care necessary to prevent endangering persons or property could be construed as reckless boating, even if it is not intentional.

If someone operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property, that operator will be cited for reckless operation.

All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner when it comes to the surrounding vessel traffic. They must respect the posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag and all other possibly dangerous situations they may encounter so as not to put other lives at stake or that may damage or destroy property.

It is forbidden to operate a vessel, water skis or similar device:

  • carelessly or heedlessly;
  • without due caution;
  • in disregard of the rights or safety of any person, vessel, or property;
  • at a rate of speed or in such a manner that will endanger any person, vessel, or property.

Vessels must never be operated or allowed to be operated in an unsafe manner. Unsafe operation includes:

  • becoming airborne while crossing the wake of another vessel;
  • operating at a speed or near a vessel or person being towed;
  • weaving through congested traffic.

The following list identifies some boat operational activities considered unlawful in Virginia:

  • Reckless operation of boat, water skis, or aquaplane.
  • Operating, while intoxicated, a boat, aquaplane or water-skis.
  • Operating or giving permission to operate an unregistered motorboat.
  • Operating or giving permission to operate a boat with an expired Certificate of Number.
  • Operating a motorboat with number improperly displayed.
  • Operating a boat with unauthorized number displayed.
  • Failing to carry the Certificate of Number on board or refusing to show it to inspecting officers.
  • Operating a registered motorboat more than 90 days in Virginia without registering it here.
  • Failing to report a change of address of a registered motorboat owner within 15 days.
  • Failure to report loss or abandonment of a registered boat within 15 days.
  • Failure to exhibit lights as required by law between sunset and sunrise.
  • A vessel operator failing to stop, render assistance, give name and address at the scene of an accident or failing to file an accident report within 10 days.
  • Towing a water skier not wearing a USCG approved life jacket without an observer in the boat.
  • Operating a motorboat without a muffled exhaust or with a cutout on the exhaust.
  • Failure to obey regulatory water markers.
  • Operating a motorboat or skis in an area designated for swimming.
  • Engaging in snorkeling or scuba diving in waters open to boating without displaying a flag (no boat shall approach closer than 25 yards when flag displayed).

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