West Virginia Jet Ski Laws: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All The Details


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.

You can only operate a PWC if you are between the ages of 12 to 14 and if you have completed the boating safety education course. And if you are also being supervised (and accompanied) by someone 18 years old or older on the PWC or vessel with 10 horsepower or more.

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

West Virginia Registration Fees

For three-year registration on your PWC or boat the prices will be as follows:

Class A Motorboats $30.00
Class 1 Motorboats $45.00
Class 2 Motorboats $60.00
Class 3 Motorboats $75.00

Hull Identification Number

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

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

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 West Virginia:

  • 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 (without 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 or vessel when they suffer from any conditions that may prevent them from operating the vessel accurately. Conditions that can be a hazard to 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

Alcohol and Drugs

  • In the state of West Virginia, one can be considered to be under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more.
  • The penalty for being convicted of Boating Under the Influence for the first time is a fine of up to $500, and you may also be jailed for up to 6 months.

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 indicates the type of fire that is extinguisher can be used for as well.

Type A Fires These types of fires are combustible solids such as wood
Type B FiresThese types of fires are flammable liquids like gasoline or oil
Type C Fires This 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 event of an accident you must:

  • Stop the vessel or PWC you are on immediately.
  • Assist those who are injured or in danger, unless it puts you or others in danger.
  • You will need to give, in writing, the name of the injured, their address, and the vessel identification to the person injured and the owner of the property that was damaged.

Someone operating a vessel involved in a boating accident must report the accident to the West Virginia Boating Accident Report Form MB-3 if the accident caused:

  • A death
  • A personal injury that will need medical attention beyond first aid
  • Or if damage to a PWC or vessel occurs and it exceeds $500

Accidents that involve a death will need to be reported 48 hours of the incident.

You will need to obtain a West Virginia Boating Accident Report and submit it by mail to the following address:

  • Division of Natural Resources
  • Motorboat Safety Section
  • 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
  • Charleston, West Virginia 25305-0668

Law Enforcement

In the state of West Virginia, all conservation officers and peace 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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