Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 29.1. Wildlife, Inland Fisheries and Boating
Chapter 7. Boating Laws
11/27/2022

Article 4. Personal Watercraft.

§ 29.1-747. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1998, cc. 84 and 563, and repealed by Acts 1998, cc. 443, 512, 514, 515, 537, effective January 1, 1999.

§ 29.1-748. Restrictions on operation; penalty.

A. It is unlawful for any person to:

1. Operate a personal watercraft unless he is at least sixteen years of age, except any person fourteen or fifteen years of age shall be allowed to operate a personal watercraft if he (i) has successfully completed a boating safety education course approved by the Director and (ii) carries on his person, while operating a personal watercraft, proof of successful completion of such course. Upon the request of a law-enforcement officer, such person shall provide proof of having successfully completed an approved course;

2. Operate a personal watercraft unless he has complied with the provisions of § 29.1-735.2, regarding board regulations for boating safety education;

3. Operate a personal watercraft unless each person riding on the personal watercraft is wearing a type I, type II, type III, or type V personal flotation device approved by the United States Coast Guard;

4. Fail to attach the lanyard to his person, clothing, or personal flotation device, if the personal watercraft is equipped with a lanyard-type engine cut-off switch;

5. Operate a personal watercraft on the waters of the Commonwealth between sunset and sunrise;

6. Operate a personal watercraft while carrying a number of passengers in excess of the number for which the craft was designed by the manufacturer; or

7. Operate a personal watercraft in excess of the slowest possible speed required to maintain steerage and headway within fifty feet of docks, piers, boathouses, boat ramps, people in the water, and vessels other than personal watercraft. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a personal watercraft from towing a person with a rope less than fifty feet in length.

B. A violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 4 misdemeanor, except that any person who violates subdivision A 2 shall be subject to the penalty provided in § 29.1-735.2.

C. A violation of this section shall not constitute negligence, be considered in mitigation of damages of whatever nature, be admissible in evidence or be the subject of comment by counsel in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a personal watercraft, nor shall anything in this section change any existing law, rule, or procedure pertaining to any such civil action, nor shall this section bar any claim which otherwise exists.

1991, c. 320; 1998, cc. 443, 537; 2007, cc. 615, 732.

§ 29.1-748.1. Local ordinances; operation on lakes; minimum distance from shoreline; penalty.

A. Any locality in Planning District 23 may, by ordinance, prohibit the operation of a personal watercraft on a public lake measuring less than 50 acres in extent. Such ordinance shall provide that a violation of the prohibition constitutes a Class 4 misdemeanor. Any violation of such an ordinance shall be subject to the provisions of subsection C of § 29.1-748.

B. The City of Virginia Beach may, by ordinance, regulate in any portion of a waterway located solely within its territorial limits, the minimum distance that personal watercraft may be operated from the shoreline in excess of the slowest possible speed required to maintain steerage and headway. Such ordinance shall provide for distances of 100 feet from the shoreline and 200 feet from swimmers in ocean waters, and shall provide for local enforcement and penalties not exceeding those applicable to Class 4 misdemeanors. Nothing in this subsection prohibits access to and from waters where operation is not otherwise restricted.

2003, c. 117; 2007, c. 813; 2018, c. 426.

§ 29.1-749. Owner of personal watercraft permitting violation; penalty.

A. It shall be unlawful for the owner of or any person having control of a personal watercraft to authorize or knowingly permit a person under the age of sixteen to operate the personal watercraft, unless the person fourteen or fifteen years of age has successfully completed a boating safety education course as required under subdivision A 1 of § 29.1-748.

B. A violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 4 misdemeanor.

1991, c. 320; 1998, c. 443.

§ 29.1-749.1. Identification of personal watercraft rentals.

Every business located in a city with a population greater than 390,000 that provides personal watercraft for rent shall place the letter "R," at least eleven inches in height and eight and one-half inches in width, on both sides of each personal watercraft rental, in either red or black, whichever color represents the clearest contrast from the basic color of the rental unit.

1998, c. 84.

§ 29.1-749.2. Local regulation of personal watercraft rentals; penalty.

A. The City of Virginia Beach may by ordinance regulate personal watercraft as provided in this section. Any ordinance enacted pursuant to this section may include any of the following provisions:

1. Any business which offers personal watercraft for rent shall (i) require any person to whom a personal watercraft is rented to present, prior to such rental, a government-issued identification card containing his photograph and (ii) retain such identification card, or a copy thereof, during the time the personal watercraft is being rented.

2. No person who rents or leases a personal watercraft shall knowingly misrepresent any material fact or falsify any information requested on the rental agreement or application.

3. Any business which offers personal watercraft for hourly short-term rental shall have at least one motorboat of at least fifty horsepower operated by an employee or agent of the business, in order to monitor and ensure the safe operation of the personal watercraft.

4. No business which offers personal watercraft for rent shall rent a personal watercraft that has an engine displacement which exceeds 800 cubic centimeters.

5. Any business which offers personal watercraft for rent shall have at least two marine VHF radios in operation during the time that a personal watercraft rental is being operated. The radios shall monitor channel 16 whenever they are not being actively used on a working channel.

B. Any locality may by ordinance establish standards for insurance coverage for any business which offers personal watercraft for rent.

C. Any ordinance adopted by a locality pursuant to this section may provide for a penalty for violation of the ordinance not to exceed the penalty applicable to a Class 3 misdemeanor.

1998, c. 563; 1999, c. 536; 2007, c. 813.

§ 29.1-749.3. Personal watercraft instruction; rental agents.

Any person who is in the business of renting personal watercraft to the public shall provide to any person who rents a personal watercraft instruction on the laws of the Commonwealth governing motorboat operation, specific operating requirements of the personal watercraft being rented, motorboat safety equipment requirements, requirements in the case of a reportable accident, and such other information as the Director may require. The content and methods of instruction shall be approved by the Director.

Any attorney for the county, city or town in which an alleged violation of this section occurred may enforce this section by a civil action to recover a civil penalty not to exceed $250. The civil penalty shall be paid into the local treasury. No filing fee or other fee or cost shall be charged to the county, city or town which instituted the action.

The fact of a violation of this section shall not constitute negligence per se, be considered in mitigation of damages of whatever nature, be admissible in evidence or be the subject of comment by counsel in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership or maintenance of a personal watercraft. This section shall not change any existing law, rule or procedure pertaining to any such civil action, nor shall this section bar any claim which otherwise exists.

1998, c. 512.

§ 29.1-750. Exemptions.

The provisions of this article shall not apply to participants in regattas, races, marine parades, tournaments, or exhibitions approved by the Board or United States Coast Guard.

1991, c. 320.