Legal Age for Driving a Jet Ski in Alabama


When you get a jet ski, it is important to know who can and who cannot drive your PWC by law.

In Alabama, a person of the age 12 or 13 may get a boater safety certification and drive IF supervised by someone ( onboard ) who is at least 21 WITH a valid certification. When 14, you may get your certification and drive without supervision.

Steps to Becoming a Young Operator

It is required to take some form of a boat class before you can receive your license/certification. Once a person completes the schooling and passes the final exam they can get their license.

There are two options of the boating test you can take: one online and one in-person. They both cover the same topics and have the same format. The exam has 25 questions and 20 have to be answered correctly in order to pass the test.

Here is a list of things you need to do to get your Alabama boating certificate:

  1. Find a course you can enroll in that is in your area and is offered by the Alabama Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Division.
  2. Get an Alabama Boating handbook and review it while using the study guide to prepare for the course.
  3. Go to the Safety Driver’s License Examining Office in your area to take the course exam (or complete the final exam online).
  4. If you take the test in person, get your new license right after you pass the test. If you took it online you will have to wait for the ALEA Marine Patrol to mail you the certificate of completion which you will then need to take to the DPS office to get your license.

Getting your boating license is very similar to getting your driver’s license: you have to study a book of rules and regulations and take an exam on your state’s laws. If you pass, you get a license.

It is important to be aware that your license can be taken from enforcement officers and that they have a right to take your privileges away if you break the law.

Another thing to keep in mind is that every state has different and more specific rules for boating and driving, and it is important when traveling to know them. When you take a vacation to a different state look up their rule book and drive safe.

All of these steps are applicable to those who are older and looking to become legally licensed.

Understanding Alabama’s Boating Rules

  • Each person on board must have a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket on at all times.
  • Any watercraft 16 feet or longer must have at least one USCG-approved personal flotation device.
  • Life jackets must be in proper condition and fit appropriate to the person’s age, weight, and activity of occupant.
  • Persons 8 years old or younger must wear a fastened life jacket at all times unless below deck.
  • All persons must wear a life jacket at all times when on board or when being towed behind any watercraft.
  • There must be a functional Type B fire extinguisher on board.
  • Specific colored light signals are required from sunset to sunrise and during times with reduced visibility.
  • Boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited and may lead to criminal charges.

Regulation Enforcement in Alabama

Once you have passed your licensing exam and you receive your Boater Education Card, you must have it on board at all times in case an enforcement officer needs to see it. Periodically officials will stop you to ensure you are driving legally.

Fees Associated with the Licencing Process

  • Certification Application fee (To take the test): $5.00
  • Boater Safety Certification (if done while getting an automobile license/permit): No Cost
  • Boater Safety Certification (Done at any other time): $23.50
  • Duplicate Certification (if lost/destroyed): $18.50
  • Duplicate for other reasons: $23.50
  • Certification reinstatement after revocation or suspension: $50.00

Keep in mind that these prices may change over time

Boater Safety Certification Requirements for Residents of other States

  • No one under the age of 12 can drive any kind of watercraft
  • If you are 12 or 13 you can drive a jet ski if you are supervised by someone who is at least 21 years old and has a certification from Alabama or their home state
  • If you are 14 or older you can drive your PWC legally on Alabama waters for 45 days per calendar year without supervision. After 45 days, you have to have a valid boater safety certification from Alabama or your home state.

PWC Regulations in Alabama

You may want to know the specifics of what you can and cannot do on a jet ski to stay out of trouble with the Coast Guards:

There shall be no maneuvers on a jet ski that endangers life, limb, or property. (If violated minimum fine of $150 not including court costs)

Examples of these prohibited maneuvers include:

  • Weaving between congested watercraft traffic at high speeds
  • Driving closely behind another vessel (within the wake) towing a person/persons
  • Jumping the wake of another watercraft going in the same direction close to the watercraft
  • Cutting between the watercraft and the person/persons being towed
  • Crossing at right angles close to the stern of another vessel or when visibility is obstructed
  • Steering towards an object or person and then turning sharply to spray the person or object

A vessel operator must not:

  • Operate at a speed that causes hazardous wake or wash when coming in contact with another vessel or when leaving or entering a harbor area
  • Operate above a plane speed (slowest speed possible to keep the vessel on plane) when people on board are such that the driver’s view is obstructed or the operation at the time is unsafe
  • Exceed any posted speed limits such as “idle speed” or “slow, no wake speed” areas (not above 5 mph)

Towing Regulations in Alabama

When towing behind your PWC keep in mind of these regulations:

  • You must have rear-view mirrors
  • The mirrors must have a minimum viewing area size of 10 square inches
  • Each mirror must have a minimum viewing area height of 2.5 inches with a minimum width of 4 inches
  • Mirrors must be mounted on both sides of the watercraft
  • Mirrors cannot be mounted on the steering wheel
  • The minimum combined viewing area of both mirrors need to be at least 20 square inches

Exemptions

In Alabama, a boat certification is NOT required for operators who:

  • Have a valid US Coast Guard Motorboat Operator’s license or…
  • Submit a valid certificate of completion of ALEA Marine Police Division (approved boating course) or…
  • Were 40 years old or older as of April 28, 1994

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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