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

Jet skiing in the summertime is a great way to have fun with family and friends. in order to have a great time, you will need to know the laws for riding a jet ski according to the state you reside in. Rules and regulations can vary from state to state and it is a need-to-know in order to be able to enjoy your time on the water safely.

In the state of Illinois anyone at the age of 12 or younger than the age of 18 will need to complete a boating safety education course and pass it as well as receive a Boating Safety Education Certificate or at least be accompanied by someone who is 18 years of age or older when operating a PWC.

It is important to be aware of the following regulations and laws for riding a jet ski on the water within the state of Illinois. 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.

The Basics to Owning a PWC

Illinois Registration Fees

New and Transfer Renewal
Class 1$28.00
Class 2 $60.00
Class 3$160.00
Class 4 $210.00
Class 1 $18.00
Class 2 $50.00
Class 3 $150.00
Class 4 $200.00
Corrected Title, Corrected Registration, Duplicate Title, Duplicate Decals, Duplicate Registration
USCG Registration Fees or Renewal Fees
Class 216 feet to less than 26 feet $50.00
Class 3 26 feet to less than 40 feet $150.00
Class 4 40 feet and over $200.00
Title Search
Dealer or Manufacturer Title

Hull Identification Number

A Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a 12-digit number that is assigned by the manufacturer to vessels built after the year 1972. they help be able to determine the difference between multiple vessels.

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

Numbers and Stickers

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

  • Each number has to be painted, applied onto your vessel as a decal, or place to be shown on both sides of the bow.
  • The numbers must be read from left to right on both sides
  • Each number must be in block letter and three-inches high
  • The color of your numbers must also be in contrast with the background of your vessel
  • The letters have to be separated from the numbers with space or a hyphen
  • There cannot be any other numbers shown on the bow of your vessel

Following the Law

PWC Rules and Regulations

  • Each person riding on a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.
  • It is illegal to harass, chase, or disturb the wildlife with your PWC or vessels.
  • You must only carry the number of people that are rated on the PWC>
  • You cannot operate a PWC within 500 feet of a designated swimming area.
  • Reckless operation of a PWC is not permitted. Examples of reckless operation are:
    • Jumping a wake too close to other vessels
    • Last minute avoidance of collision
    • Weaving carelessly through traffic
    • Carrying more people than recommended on your PWC
    • If you maneuver your PWC in a way that it can cause unreasonable harm to you or your passengers
  • It is illegal to operate a personal watercraft vehicle between the hours of sunset and sunrise especially when your vision is a bit restricted.
  • You cannot remove any backfire flame arrestor or ventilator if it installed by your manufacturer.
  • You must have a whistle or horn on board your PWC that is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • The safety ignition switch must be fully functional and have a lanyard attached to it to ensure it does not get lost or misplaced.

Reckless Operation of a Vessel

Improper Speed or Distance

Failing to go at a reasonable speed and even going faster than the speed recommended, especially during vessel traffic, poor weather conditions and closeness to shore can result in injuries.

To be more specific, here are some actions that are considered to be illegal in the state of Illinois:

  • Going at a speed that can be harmful to your vessel
  • Going faster than the speed limit posted near the body of water you are operating on.
  • Being within 20 feet of the outer boundary area that is marked by signs and buoys of it being a restricted area.
  • Operating at a greater speed than “slow, no wake” speed that is posted in a “no wake” zone.
  • Operating your vessel at extreme speeds in the close vicinity of another vessel, PWCs or dangerous waters.
  • Roaming around a swimming area (within 20 feet) and it is marked with red and yellow buoys.
  • Operating your PWC within 20 feet of another person who is fishing (gaining their permission first)

Overloading and Overpowering

Going against the recommended weight and horsepower shown on your PWC or vessel is unsafe. You should never exceed the maximum number of persons or weight that is recommended when you purchase or operate a PWC.

If the PWC does not have a plate, in which it shows its capacity, the owner must be able to demonstrate that the PWC follows the safe loading and powering requirements given by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Hazardous Condition

This is when you knowingly allow another person to use a PWC when they suffer from any conditions that may prevent them from operating the vessel accurately. Conditions that can be hard for the operator and their passengers are:

  • If the operator has a physical or mental disability
  • If there are not enough personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors, or navigational lights
  • Or if an unsafe condition simply exists

Reckless Operation

Recklessly operating and being negligent of the rules for operating a vessel or PWC is putting yourself and others in danger. The following are examples of negligent and reckless operations of a PWC or vessel.

Encircling people that are participating in water activities. Unless you are retrieving someone who is downed in the water. Do not operate a PWC around:

  • Anyone who is on a PWC or vessel that is fishing, water skiing, or engaging in water activity.
  • Anyone who is swimming nearby
  • Unsafely approaching or passing a dock, ramp, a moored or anchored or even a swimming area that is marked is illegal.
  • Any other PWC or Vessel.

Alcohol and Drugs (BUI It’s against the Law)

In the state of Illinois you are considered to be under the influence of alcohol if you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.

If you are convicted of boating under the influence than you will receive a fine of up to $2,500 as well as imprisonment for up to one year. The further you repeat the offense the more severe your punishment will be.

Required Equipment

Personal Flotation Devices

Offshore Life JacketsNear-Shore VestsFlotation AidsThrowable DevicesSpecial-Use Devices
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. This vest is fit for calmer waters and faster rescues. If you were to wear this while unconscious it may not be able to turn you face up in the water.This vest can also be full-sleeved jacket and it is great for calm waters and fast rescues. This will definitely not turn your face up in the rough waters. This is generally worn for water sports.This 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. This type of flotation device was made for activities like kayaking, water skiing. These typically look like 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, and it must be on board a vessel that is 16 feet or longer and it must also be easily accessible for emergency use.
  • Any person that is on board a PWC or vessel (no matter the age) must wear a PFD.
  • Vessels have to have 1 of the 5 personal flotation devices on board your vessel and they also must be a wearable size for any passenger or operator.

Fire Extinguishers

You can classify your fire extinguisher by letter and number symbol. The number helps you decipher the size of the extinguisher, and the letter indicates the type of fire that is extinguished 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

All vessels are required, by law, to have a type B fire extinguishers on board in the case of any extreme or dangerous situations occurring.

Your fire extinguisher should be placed somewhere easily accessible in the case of a situation where it needs to be used immediately.

these fire extinguishers should also stay in 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

If you get involved in a boating accident you must:

  1. You must stop your vessel immediately y the accident
  2. Assist anyone who may be injured or if they are in danger, unless doing so may put others on your PWC or vessel in danger
  3. You will need to give, in writing, the name of the person who is injured, the certificate number to anyone injured and the owner of any of the property that was damaged

If you are involved in an accident that resulted in:

  • death
  • an injury that will result in treatment beyond first aid
  • property damage that exceeds $2,000 to all vessels and docks that are involved in an accident

If you are involved in the accidents above you will need to submit an accident report.

Law Enforcement

In the state of Illinois, all law enforcement officers can and will enforce the law.

  • They also have the authority to stop your PWC or vessel to be able to determine whether you are following the state and federal laws.
  • If you refuse to follow the direction of a law enforcement officer, know that it is illegal.
  • Anyone who received a visible signal from a law enforcement officer must stop their PWC.

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.

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