Older Kids and Boating: When Are They Ready to Take the Helm?

Operating a boat in Florida is frequently an activity (and a skill) that is handed from parents to children, and a process that may be seamless for many kids and young adults as they have been on the water since they were babies. This is often the case around the coasts and waterways of the United States—and the world—as boats are very common and sometimes considered a more casual form of transportation; after all, in some cases (enviable to many) it is very easy to head down to the dock, hop into the boat, and take off. It is, however, critical to understand the laws in your state before allowing your child to do so. In Florida, kids must be at least 14 before they can drive a boat. If they are ages 14 to 16, they may operate a vessel alone if they have completed an approved boating course or if they are traveling with an adult over the age of 18. If traveling alone, they should carry a copy of their ID card/certification on board.

While it is important for all ages to take safety measures into account first and foremost, younger boaters may not be as acclimated, depending on the vessel they are operating, And they should always know where lifejackets and flotation devices are stowed, along with instructions on how to operate a radio, and other lifesaving devices like the airhorn and flares. If heading out alone, they should always create a float plan to leave behind with a friend or family member who is staying on land that day. Younger boaters should create or be provided with a safety/supply checklist to use every time before going out, reminding them to check the following:

  • Fuel and oil levels
  • Anchor
  • Battery
  • Bilge pump
  • Fire extinguisher, air horn, EPIRB
  • Water supply
  • Tool and first-aid kits
  • Life vests

New boaters, as well as captains of all ages, should always be in the habit of checking the weather before going out and should be skilled in handling choppy waves in the case of a squall popping up—especially in Florida, where that is a common occurrence. Younger boaters should also be extremely aware of the dangers involved in boating while under the influence, along with realizing that there can be legal repercussions just like driving while impaired.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after accidents. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. We are here to help!

All blogs are written on behalf of Heintz & Becker for informational purposes. These articles should not, however, be considered legal advice, or in any way responsible for creating an attorney/client relationship.