Alabama Jet Ski Laws: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All You Need To Know

Jet skiing in the summertime is a great way to make some cherished memories with family and friends. To make sure you do not come across any bumps with law enforcement while on the water you will need to know the rules and regulations for jet skiing in the state of Alabama. These rules can vary from state to state but it is a need-to-know in order to enjoy your time.

If you are under the age of 12 you cannot apply to obtain an Alabama boater safety certification and you cannot operate a vessel or PWC under any circumstance. If you are 12 years of age or older you can apply to get a boater safety certificate. Once you receive it you can then operate a PWC or vessel legally (if supervised by someone 21 years of age or older).

It is important to be aware of the following regulations and laws for riding a jet ski on the water within the state of Alabama. By doing so you are responsibly following the law and that will guarantee you have an adventurous and stress-free time on your jet ski with family and friends.

Registering Your PWC

Alabama Registration Fees

This information was provided by Tuscaloosa County, Alabama and their website providing information on registering your boat and the fees that coincide with the process. You can find more here.

Less than 16 feet long $20.00
16 feet and longer, but less than 26 feet $25.00
26 feet and longer, but less than 40 feet $75.00
40 feet and longer$100.00
Transfer, Replacement, Duplicate $5.00

Hull Identification Number

A Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a 12 digit number that is assigned by the manufacturer to vessel built after the year 1972. HIN helps be able to determine the differences between other vessels and identify the owner as well.

In case your vessel is stolen you should write down your HIN and place it somewhere safe and secure.

Numbers and Stickers

Once you receive your registration number and the validation stickers you must display these items in the following ways:

  • there cannot be any other numbers shown on the bow of your vessel
  • the letters have to separate from the numbers with a hyphen or space
  • the color of your numbers must also be in contrast to the color of your vessel
  • each number must be in block letters and three inches high
  • the numbers must be read from left to right on both sides
  • each number should be painted, applied onto your vessel as a decal, or place to be shown on both sides of the bow

The Basics

PWC Rules and Regulations

  • You cannot operate a PWC within 500 feet of a designated swimming area.
  • Reckless operation of a PWC is not allowed. Examples of this are:
    • jumping a wake too close to another vessel
    • weaving through vessel traffic carelessly
    • swerving last minute to avoid collision with another vessel
    • carrying more passengers on your PWC than is recommended
    • if you maneuver your PWC in a way that it causes harm to you or your passengers
  • It is illegal to operate your PWC between sunset and sunrise. This is because it can be especially difficult to see during those late hours of the day.
  • The safety ignition switch must be fully functional and have a lanyard attached to it to ensure it does not get lost or misplaced.
  • You must have a whistle or horn (for emergency use) onboard your PWC that is also U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • You cannot remove any backfire flame arrestor or ventilator if it installed by your manufacturer.
  • Each person on board your PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved type 1,2, or 3 personal flotation device.

Reckless Operation of a Vessel

Failure to Regulate Your Speed

When you operate your vessel at a faster speed than recommended you are putting those around you and yourself at risk for getting hurt.

Especially during vessel traffic, poor weather conditions, and closeness to shore you will need to follow the speed regulations.

Examples of this are:

  • Operating your vessel at extreme speed in the close vicinity of another vessel, PWCs, or dangerous waters
  • Going at a speed that can be harmful to your vessel
  • Operating at a greater speed than “slow, not wake speed” that is posted in a “no wake” zone
  • Going faster than the speed limit posted near the body of water you are operating on
Improper Distance Between Others

If you are operating your vessel faster than 5 mph while operating within 100 feet of the shore, dock, pier, raft, float, or any anchored or moored vessel you are operating your vessel improperly and putting others around you at risk.

Riding on the Bow, Deck or Gunwale of a Vessel

Riding on anything that is not equipped with fixed seating can lead to the potential of falling overboard. Do not allow your passengers or yourself to sit on the seat back, transom, gunwale or on seats on raised decks or a bow.

Reckless Operation Specifics

This is when your weave through traffic, swerve last minute to avoid a head-on collision with another vessel or overload your vessel beyond the capacity it states on the plate.

Unsafe Condition

Not having enough personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors, ventilation systems, or navigational lights are putting yourself and others abroad your vessel at risk.

You also put yourself and others in danger when you overload or overpower your boat or when you are operating the vehicle while intoxicated.

Alcohol and Drugs

In the state of Alabama, it is illegal to be in control of any water skis, vessel, or personal watercraft if the operator:

  • Is under the influence of:
    • alcohol, drugs or any other controlled substance
    • any combination of alcohol, controlled substances or drugs
    • any substance that impairs the operator’s mental state
  • Has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more

The following penalties for boating under the influence in the state of Alabama are the following:

  • On your first offense you can receive a fine up to $2,100 and/or up to one year in jail, and a suspension of your certification for 90 days
  • On your second offense, you can receive a fine up to $5,100 and/or up to one year in jail with community service for no less than 30 days and a suspension of your certification for a year
  • On your third offense, you will receive a fine up to $10,100 and/or up to one year in jail with a sentence of no less than 60 days and a suspension of your certification for three years.

Required Equipment

Personal Flotation Devices

Type 1Offshore Life Jackets This vest can turn an unconscious person in the water to face up in the water. It was made for rough waters and for situations where rescue might take a long time.
Type 2Near-Shore VestsThis vest is fit for calmer waters and faster rescues. If you were to wear this while unconscious it may not be able to turn your face up in the water.
Type 3Flotation AidsThis vest can also be a full-sleeved jacket and it is great for calm waters and fast rescues. This will definitely not turn your face up in rough waters. This is generally worn for water sports.
Type 4Throw able DevicesThis type of flotation device is a cushion or ring buoys and are typically used to throw at someone in trouble. They are not made to last for long hours in the waters, or non-swimmers, or the unconscious.
Type 5Special-Use DevicesThis type of flotation device was made for activities like kayaking, water-skiing These typically look like white water vests, deck suits, and personal flotation device hybrids.

Requirements for PFDs

  • A type 4 personal flotation device that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, must be on board a vessel that is 16 feet or longer and it must also be easily accessible for emergency use
  • Vessels have to have 1 of the 5 personal flotation devices on board and they also must be a wearable size for any passenger or operator
  • Any person that is on board a PWC or vessel (no matter their age) must wear a personal flotation device

Fire Extinguishers

You can classify your fire extinguishers by letter and number symbol. The number helps you decipher the size of the extinguishers, and the letter indicated the type of fire that is extinguishers as well.

TYPE A FIRESThese types of fires are combustible solids such as wood
TYPE B FIRESThese types of fires are flammable liquids like gasoline or oil
TYPE C FIRESThis type of fire is mainly electrical fires

These fire extinguishers must stay in a usable condition. You need to regularly check up on the extinguishers to ensure they are in the best condition:

  • there is no physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzle
  • pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range
  • seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing

What To Do In An Accident

In the terrible event of an accident occurring while you or another person is using a vessel or PWC. The operator must submit a written casualty or accident report if…

  • a person disappears from the vessel and it may indicate possible death or injury
  • a person is unable to perform normal or usual activities
  • there is damage to the vessel or other property damage and it totals to more than $2,000 or if there is a complete loss of the vessel
  • a person dies

Law Enforcement

The boating laws of Alabama are enforced by the Marine Police Officers, County Sheriffs, U.S. Coast Guard officers, and any other peace or law enforcement officer.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

Recent Posts

outdoortroop-21 outdoortroop-20