Essential Boating Safety Guidelines

Legally Required Safety Measures

Adhering to specific safety regulations is crucial for ensuring a secure boating experience. Below are the essentials mandated by law to maintain safety on the water:

  • Flotation Devices: A U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket must be available for every person on board, easily accessible at all times. Additionally, boats over 16 feet must have an extra throwable flotation device.
  • Life Jacket Requirement for Children: Children aged 12 and under are legally required to wear a life jacket at all times on a moving boat, except when the vessel is anchored or securely moored to a dock.
  • Fire Safety: Boats with enclosed fuel tanks or engines must be equipped with a fire extinguisher.
  • Navigation Lights: Functional running lights are mandatory after sunset or in conditions of restricted visibility to ensure visibility to other vessels.
  • Documentation: The state registration card must be present on the boat, along with properly displayed registration numbers and a current validation sticker.
  • Alcohol and Drug Policy: Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited.
  • Navigation Rules Compliance: Familiarity and adherence to established navigation rules are required to prevent collisions and ensure safe passage.
  • Capacity Limits: Overloading a boat beyond its recommended capacity can lead to instability and capsizing.
  • Sound Signaling Device: A device for producing sound signals is necessary to communicate with other boaters, especially in situations of reduced visibility.

Additional Safety Preparations

Beyond the legal requirements, the following items and practices are recommended to enhance safety and preparedness on the water:

  • Ramp Protocol: Only occupy boat ramps when your vessel is fully prepared for launch to avoid delays and congestion.
  • Trip Notification: Inform someone of your boating schedule and expected return time for safety checks.
  • Weather Awareness: Check weather forecasts prior to departure to avoid being caught in hazardous conditions.
  • Navigation Aids: Carry up-to-date navigation charts for the waterways you plan to explore.
  • Emergency Equipment: Have a bail bucket, anchor with line, paddle, and an extra plug on board. Secure your boat to the trailer post-loading and ensure the trailer's lights are operational.
  • Nighttime Precautions: Reduce speed during night boating to allow more reaction time to unseen hazards.
  • Fuel Safety: Regularly check for gasoline fumes in the engine and bilge areas to prevent fires.
  • Engine Safety: Utilize a motor kill switch, especially in small or high-speed boats.
  • Visibility Enhancement: A 170-degree wide-angle rearview mirror can help maintain awareness of the surroundings.

Advocacy and Awareness

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency promotes boating safety through the "Life Jackets Float. You Don't." campaign, emphasizing the critical importance of wearing life jackets. Statistics show that 80% of drowning victims in boating accidents were not wearing a personal flotation device, underscoring the life-saving potential of adhering to this simple practice.

For more comprehensive boating safety information, resources, and regulations, visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website at or contact the Boating Division directly. Remember, safety on the water is everyone's responsibility. Always wear your life jacket and encourage others to do the same.

Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.