Texas Boating Laws and Requirements

It is boat season in Texas. With many lakes and the Gulf nearby, there are many opportunities for Texans to get out on the water with friends and family this summer. Below, we have outlined a few important Texas boating laws. Following these boating requirements can help keep you safe from a boat accident.

Do I Need a Boating License in Texas?

Yes, but only if you were born on or after September 1, 1993. If this is the case, then you need a boating license in Texas to operate certain types of vessels. These vessels include:

  • A powerboat that contains a motor of more than 15 horsepower
  • A windblown vessel, such as a sailboat, that is more than 14 feet in length
  • A personal watercraft (PWC), such as a jet ski

Texas Boating License Age

In Texas, in order to operate a motorboat, a windblown vessel or a PWC, an operator must meet the following requirements:

  • The operator is at least 13 years of age; and
  • The operator has passed a safety course approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD).

If the operator is younger than 13 years of age, he or she may only operate the vessel if:

  • The operator is supervised by an adult at least 18 years of age; and
  • The supervisor has passed a safety course approved by the TPWD; and
  • The supervisor in on the vessel while it is underway.

Life Jacket Requirements in Texas

All Texas water vessels are required to have United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board. The amount and types of PFDs required depends on the type of vessel and the number of passengers. You can find a guide for PFD requirements on the TPWD website.

Texas Boating Laws: Life Jackets

Texas law states that all passengers under the age of 13 must wear a USCG approved life jacket when any vessel less than 26 feet in length is underway. If the vessel is anchored or aground, then a life jacket is not required.

PWC Life Jacket Requirements

Anyone who is riding or being towed behind a personal watercraft, such as a jet ski or water scooter, must wear an approved PFD at all times.

Even if you are not required by law to wear a life jacket, it is in your best interest to wear one when on a boat. In case of a boating accident, such as flooding or falling overboard, a life jacket could save your life. The life jackets should be easily accessible in case of emergencies.

Texas Boat Insurance Requirements

Texas does not require that boat operators carry minimum levels of boat insurance. Unfortunately, many Texans do not carry boat insurance. However, you should. Accidents happen. In fact, in 2017, the USCG reported 170 boat accidents in Texas that resulted in nearly $1.4 billion in damages.

Boating and Drinking: Can You Drink on a Boat If You’re Not Driving?

Yes, as long as you are not operating the boat. Boat operators are subject to Texas boating while intoxicated laws. Like motor vehicle laws, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%.

Texas Boating Laws: Alcohol Open Container

Unlike other types of motor vehicles, Texas open container laws do not apply to boats. You may have open containers in the passenger area of the vessel.

Keep in mind that operators and passengers are also subject to Texas public intoxication laws. The use of alcohol should be treated with extreme caution on a boat. It is dangerous and a leading cause of boat accidents.

Injured in a Boating Accident in Texas?

If you need representation after a boat accident in Texas, contact Daniel D. Horowitz, III, our Houston boat accident lawyer, to discuss your situation. Call us at (832) 460-5181 or fill out our online case evaluation form and someone from our office will be in touch with you soon.