Boats and Alabama Law

May 28, 2024 | FAQ | 0 comments

Question: I’m back to the water. Update, please, on boats and Alabama law?

JASON: Here in Mobile, we love the water. But it is not without danger.

Let me talk a little about boating accidents. We have 4 different areas of water around here … lakes, rivers, the Bay, and the Gulf. The laws may be different depending on where the accident happened. If you are in an accident, I strongly suggest you contact a local lawyer who understands our unique situation.

Law enforcement, whether state, federal, or international, says alcohol is the number one cause of boating deaths. In Alabama, you are under the influence if found to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher.

If law enforcement has probable cause to believe that a boat operator is drunk, it has the authority to test using a field breathalyzer or similar devices at the scene. If you refuse, the penalties are like those for motor vehicles.

Law enforcement in the state of Alabama has the authority to stop and board any boat. This includes Marine Police Officers, County Sheriffs, the United States Coast Guard, and all officers of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Laws You Need to Know About

You must have a boating license to operate a boat in Alabama. Twelve-year-old children can operate a boat as long as they have a boating license and someone over the age of 21 supervises them. Once a boater turns 14, they no longer need supervision, but they still need a license.

All boats must have lifejackets, navigation lights, and other safety devices on board.

Unlike motor vehicles, Alabama does not typically require liability insurance for boats. This is important because, after an accident, there may not be enough money to cover your injuries.

New Laws

A new law requires the use of a “kill switch” on most pleasure boats, bringing state law into compliance with federal law.  This is meant to reduce the chance of runaway boats.

Another new piece of legislation deals with wakeboarding and wakesurfing in public waters. The new law generally restricts the activity between sunset and sunrise. You must also wear a life jacket.

A Few Things to Remember

Limit alcohol. Law enforcement suggests naming a designated (sober) driver.

Wear a life jacket. Do this while boating, fishing, or participating in water sports.

Watch out for weather changes. Be prepared to seek shelter.

Follow boating rules, including speed and distance limits, and be mindful of other boaters, swimmers, and wildlife.

Equip your boat with safety gear, including fire extinguishers, navigation lights, and a first aid kit.

Go enjoy our great bodies of water. Just be smart. We want to see you around for many summers to come.

Jason Steele

Alabama Personal Injury Attorney

Talk to me for free  (251) 666-1212