Boating Laws in Kentucky: How to Stay Safe on the Water
Written by Cooper & Friedman PLLC on June 16, 2022
Kentucky is a nature-lover’s dream. The Bluegrass State is home to countless beautiful forests, parks, and waterways worth exploring. From the scenic hiking and camping sites at Red River Gorge to the beautiful Lake Cumberland, Kentucky has a lot to offer, particularly in the way of lakes and rivers. With over 20 major waterways, those looking for a place to boat, fish, or just enjoy the water have plenty of options.
If you’re planning on boating this summer in Kentucky, then there is a lot you should know. Just like any other motor vehicle, boats can be very dangerous if not operated correctly. In 2020 alone, the United States Coast Guard reported 5,265 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 62.5 million dollars of property damage, 3,191 injuries, and 767 deaths. If you’re interested, you can read the Coast Guard’s full 2020 report here. Owning and operating a boat also comes with its fair share of rules and regulations, so to help you stay safe on the water, we’ve put together this guide of Kentucky boating laws.
Registering Your Boat in Kentucky
All motorized boats in Kentucky must be properly registered to be used legally. The registration process is crucial in ensuring authorities have the information they need when dealing with accidents, theft, or improper/reckless operation of a boat. When operating your boat, it is important to always have your registration on board and accessible. Also, boat owners are responsible for renewing their registration every year, as all boat registrations expire each April 30th. Although you may be subject to some small fees and inconveniences while registering, this is one of the most important parts of operating your boat safely and legally.
Boat Licensing Based on Age
In Kentucky, you must be over the age of 12 to operate a boat. However, If you are between 12 and 17 years old then after a state approved boater’s safety course, you are ready to hit the water. These courses are designed to teach younger boaters basic safety skills and are important to ensuring safe waterways across the state. While adults 18 and over aren’t legally required to take these courses, they are still highly recommended, especially if you have no prior boating experience.
Operating While Intoxicated
Operating any vehicle under the influence is a terrible idea. With impaired coordination and decision making skills, intoxicated boaters are begging for an accident. Operating a boat or other watercraft under the influence puts the operator and anyone else in the area at high risk of injury and death. According to the United States Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading factor in boating fatalities, accounting for 18% of these fatalities in 2020. Accordingly, operating under the influence carries high penalties; anyone found to be operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 and higher, or while under the influence of any illicit drugs is subject to high fines and even jail time.
There are many other laws and safety practices in place to protect boaters. For example, all boats must be equipped with fire extinguishers and all operators and passengers must be wearing approved flotation devices on the water at all times. For a more exhaustive overview of Kentucky boating regulations, check out this publication from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. If you’ve been in a boating accident, legal action and counsel may be needed. Finding a good attorney is crucial in protecting yourself in the aftermath of a boating accident. To learn more about keeping yourself safe this summer, see this article on common summertime injuries on our blog.
If you or someone you love has fallen victim to a boating accident in the state of Kentucky, the experienced team at Cooper and Friedman PLLC is here to help. We have decades of experience fighting for the rights of victims throughout Louisville, Kentucky and across the entire state. We handle your case personally and you can always be sure that our attorneys will be responsive to your calls and inquiries. For additional information, or to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced injury attorney, give us a call at 502-459-7555 or contact us online.