Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat in Missouri?

Missouri offers many opportunities for recreational boating. If you own and operate a motorized boat or personalized watercraft (PWC) like a water scooter or jet ski, you need to know how to drive the craft safely to avoid injuring yourself or others.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Water Patrol Division requires all people who drive a boat in the Show-Me State to take and pass an approved boater safety class and carry an education card.

Familiarize yourself with Missouri’s boating laws and safety suggestions to avoid water-related accidents. If you or a loved one suffers injuries in a boating accident, contact the boating accident lawyers at Cofman Townsley.

Boater Education Law

On January 1, 2005, Missouri enacted the Boater Education Law. It requires every person born after January 1, 1984, to pass a Missouri Boater Education class and test and obtain a boater identification card before they can operate any motorized vessel on the state’s lakes.

The boat operator must be at least 14, unless accompanied by an adult. Those under 14 and accompanied by an adult will still need a boater identification card.

Out-of-state residents must comply with this law as well. You can take any of Missouri’s approved classes (one of which is available online) OR a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved course from your home state. A boater identification card from your home state also meets boating licensing criteria.

Exceptions to the boater education requirement include anyone with a master’s, mate’s, or operator’s license issued by the US Coast Guard, any current member of the US military and their spouses, or those participating in a regatta approved by the water patrol.

Other Rules and Regulations

Most boats used in Missouri must be registered with the state and display appropriate markings. Those that don’t need to be registered include sailboats less than 12 feet long, boats with no integrated means of propulsion, and those registered in another state and used in Missouri for less than 60 consecutive days.

All outboard motors, except trolling motors, require registration. Contact the Missouri Department of Revenue if you have a specific question about your watercraft.

Personal flotation devices

Federal law requires all boats to carry a wearable personal floatation device (PFD) for each person on board or in tow. Carry the type of PFD appropriate for your activities that fits the intended user. All boats over 16 feet long need to carry at least one throwable PFD.

Fire extinguishers

State law requires every boat with a permanent fuel tank, enclosed living space, and flammable or toxic liquids on board to carry one to three Type B United States Coast Guard-approved fire extinguishers, depending on the size of the boat.

Excessive wake

You should only perform activities that cause excessive wakes in areas that pose little danger to other boaters, docks, or shoreline erosion. When operating near docks or in a cove, limit your wake as much as possible. Boaters who don’t follow these safety guidelines can injure someone with an excessive wake and may be subject to law enforcement action and civil liability.

Safety flags

If you have a skier in the water, you must display a red or bright orange flag at least 12 inches by 12 inches that other boaters can see from 360 degrees. Other boats must idle within 50 yards of you when the flag is displayed. You must lower the flag when you pick up your skier or tuber.

A diver down flag, the flag used when a diver is underwater from your boat in state waters, is a red flag with a diagonal white strip that measures at least 12 inches by 16 inches. A blue and white International Flag A or Alfa Flag must be used in federally controlled waters.

Navigation lights

Missouri requires navigation lights on vessels over 23 feet in length. Smaller boats need at least a flashlight so you can signal to other vessels.

Safety light requirements vary by boat size, and you must display them between sunset and sunrise. You must have a red light on the port side of the bow or mast, a green light on the starboard side, and a white light at the stern. If you anchor or moor away from the dock after dark, you must display a white light that is visible for 360 degrees.

Reckless Boating

The state lists several actions it deems irresponsible when boating on state-controlled waters. These actions could make boat operators liable for injuries they cause.

Dangerous and reckless actions include:

  • Chasing or harassing wildlife with your boat or PWC
  • Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Operating in restricted areas without regard for the safety of others
  • Carrying too many passengers for the boat
  • Speeding, especially in no-wake zones
  • Operating faster than an idle within 100 feet of an emergency craft with its lights displayed
  • Operating faster than an idle within 100 feet of a dock
  • Operating faster than 30 mph between one-half hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise
  • Violating the skier down or diver down flag rules

Reckless boating restrictions specific to PWC include:

  • Operating with a wake within 50 feet of any boat, PWC, or person in the water
  • Jumping a wake within 100 feet of another vessel
  • Jumping a wake when you can’t see potential hazards
  • Weaving through congested traffic
  • Failure to use a cut-off key on a lanyard

Following these safety rules and regulations allows you to focus on having fun with your friends and family on the water. Unfortunately, some boat operators don’t use the same caution and cause accidents. Boaters who aren’t as safety conscious can cause accidents and be held liable in a personal injury claim in civil court.

Get Help Recovering Damages

If you are involved in a boating accident that results in injuries and property damages, contact the St. Louis boat accident lawyers at Cofman Townsley to discuss your case.

We can help you file a lawsuit and get fair compensation for your damages. We’ll review the circumstances of your boating accident to determine whether the other driver acted negligently and pursue maximum damages on your behalf.

Contact us today for a free, no-risk evaluation of your case.