Arizona’s Boating Accident Laws


Arizona’s scenic lakes are the perfect place to go to beat the heat and engage in recreational activities, such as boating. To keep boaters safe on the water, Arizona enforces a number of essential laws and regulations. No one under age 12 is permitted to operate a motor-powered vessel over eight horsepower unless under the direct supervision of a responsible adult or in an emergency situation. All boaters under age 12 must also wear a Coast Guard-approved PFD while on board.

Regardless of these precautions, boating accidents are fairly common in Arizona. According to the 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics published by the U.S. Coast Guards Boating Safety Division, Arizona experienced 535 reported boating accidents from 2015 to 2019. Approximately 35 of these accidents were fatal.

Causes of Boating Accidents in Arizona

Watercraft accidents can have a wide range of causes with the most common being negligence of the boat operator. An accident can occur when an operator is not paying attention, inexperienced, driving recklessly, or experiences hazardous waters or equipment failure. Accidents may also occur in bad weather or congested water.

In Arizona, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of an intoxicating substance, such as alcohol or drugs. A boat operator is considered to be ‘under the influence’ with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. A conviction of operating a boat under the influence in Arizona could result in a fine of up to $3,150, as well as up to 45 days in jail.

During a boating accident, a boat may collide with another vessel or with a fixed object. A person may also suffer injury by falling overboard or in the boat, or by getting struck with a propeller or motor. Flooding and swamping can also cause boating accidents, as well as skier mishaps and grounding.

Reporting Boating Accidents in Arizona

Arizona law requires boaters involved in a boating accident to respond to and report the accident in a certain way. According to instructions specified in 33 CFR § 173.55, owners or operators of boats involved in boating accidents are required to file a Boating Accident Report if the accident leads to:

  • Loss of life
  • Disappearance that indicates injury or death
  • Personal injury that requires medical attention that cannot be treated with basic first aid
  • Damage to the boat or property damage that exceeds $2,000
  • Complete loss of the boat

If a fatal boating accident occurs, Arizona law requires boaters to immediately notify the nearest state boating authority. Involved boaters will need to provide certain information, such as the date, time and location of the accident, the name of each person missing or dead, the name and number of the vessel, and the name and address of the owner and operator of the boat.

Arizona is required by federal law to report all boating incidents to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard will then review the accident to determine if there are ways to make the vessel or boating practices safer for the general public.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Boating in the open water carries a serious risk of personal injury, fatal drowning accidents, and property damage. If someone suffers injury in a boating accident, the victim has the right to file a personal injury lawsuit to cover any expenses or losses, such as loss of income, medical bills, and pain and suffering. However, determining negligence in a personal injury boating accident case can be challenging.

If you have questions about Arizona boating laws and would like to discuss your accident case confidentially with a skilled personal injury attorney, contact JacksonWhite Law today.

Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.

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