Recreational activities: boat laws on Illinois waters — Part I

Summer is arriving and many Illinoisans will be planning weekend boating trips with their family and friends soon. Since many of those people are not regular boaters, it is important for them to understand the various rules and regulations that govern the operation of boats on Illinois waters. The rules and regulations are meant to ensure the safety of regular and recreational boaters. A boating accident can be as devastating and as tragic as any other automotive accident.

According to the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act, there are certain rules and regulations that apply to the operation of boats. For example, if a person operates a boat and it results in injuries or property damage, or if the person speeds or does not leave enough distance between the boat and the one in front, it is considered careless operation of a boat.

Similarly, if a person willfully operates a watercraft in a manner that endangers life, limb or property of any person, the act calls it reckless operation. Reckless operation of a boat also includes weaving through congested waterways, jumping the wake of another boat or creating an obstruction in the path of another boat. If a person violates those rules, the person may face charges for aggravated operation of a watercraft.

A common reason behind boating accidents is overloading. Therefore, the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act states that no boat should be loaded with people or cargo beyond its safe operating limits. In order to ensure that the capacity of a boat is clearly understood, the act makes it mandatory for all boats that are under 26-feet long and designed to carry two or more people and are manufactured or meant for sale in Illinois to visibly state the capacity on the outside of the boat.

Source:, “Illinois Boat Registration & Safety Act Information,” accessed on June 10, 2015