South Carolina attracts boating enthusiasts from all over with its diverse range of waterways, including the tranquil coastal rivers of the Lowcountry and the picturesque lakes in the Midlands and upstate. Many South Carolinians enjoy boating for relaxation, freedom, and the joy of being out on the water. However, the lack of designated lanes and speed limits on lakes and coastal waters doesn’t mean boating is a free-for-all. Reckless boating can pose serious risks to the safety of boaters, their passengers, and others enjoying the water.

Boaters must follow safety regulations in South Carolina. Understanding what is considered reckless boating is essential for responsible boaters who prioritize safety and want to avoid legal consequences.

What is Reckless Boating in South Carolina?

Reckless boating is operating any vessel or personal watercraft (such as a jet ski) with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people and property. The following actions are considered reckless boating in South Carolina and can make you responsible for any injuries you cause as a result:

  • Speeding at greater than idle speed through congested vessel traffic
  • Jumping another vessel’s wake within 200 feet of the other vessel
  • Crossing the path or wake of another vessel with limited visibility around the other vessel
  • Keeping a collision course with another vessel or object and swerving dangerously

While these are not the only acts that can get you charged with reckless boating, they are some of the most dangerous.

Other Unlawful Acts While Boating

Boat operators can be liable for failing to prioritize passenger safety while operating their watercraft and for boating in restricted waters. Reckless boating charges can be filed if you engage in these behaviors:

  • Failure to have passengers wear required U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets while aboard
  • Operating personal watercraft, such as jet skis, after sunset or before sunrise
  • Disturbing, chasing, or harassing wildlife with a boat or personal watercraft, except while hunting or fishing

Boaters also can’t push their boats above idle speed within 100 ft. of a dock, wharf, bulkhead, or pier or 50 ft. of another vessel or person in the water.

Operating a Boat Negligently

Negligently operating a watercraft can be considered reckless boating. Some of these actions include:

  • Exceeding the designated speed limit in a no-wake zone
  • Failure to watch for other boats and people in the water
  • Operating a watercraft too fast for the prevailing conditions (such as weather conditions) and disregarding potential hazards
  • Participation in racing activities that put yourself and others at risk
  • Towing a water skier through a swimming zone

Boating While Under the Influence

Operating a motorized watercraft or boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and considered reckless boating in South Carolina. You should no more drink while behind the wheel of a boat than you would before getting behind the wheel of a car.

What are Safe Boating Practices?

You can maximize your enjoyment of the water while minimizing the risk of accidents and legal consequences associated with reckless boating. Follow these guidelines before taking off in a boat:

  • Ensure everyone aboard the boat has a properly fitted, Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit on your boat for potential fire and medical emergencies.
  • Inspect the boat and equipment to ensure they are in good working condition.
  • Share your plan for the outing with at least one person on land, including your itinerary and estimated return time.
  • Be aware of the weather forecast before and during your trip since conditions can change suddenly.

During your boating trip, stay vigilant to keep you, your passengers, and other boaters safe. These tips can help you navigate safely and responsibly on the water:

  • Refrain from using alcohol or drugs while operating a boat.
  • Assign someone on your boat to help you look out for other boats and swimmers.
  • Watch out for designated idle speed and wake zones to prevent property damage and injuries to others in the water.
  • Keep a safe distance between your boat and swimmers to ensure their safety.

Contact a Boating Accident Lawyer at Joye Law Firm

The skilled attorneys at Joye Law Firm have represented the interests of South Carolina residents and visitors since 1968. Our team has over 250 years of combined legal experience, ensuring that victims of boating accidents caused by reckless boaters receive the best legal representation.

If you are injured in a boating accident, you need an experienced South Carolina boating accident lawyer. Joye Law Firm has the resources to represent your legal interests and obtain compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, lost income and reduced earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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