Oklahoma Boat Safety

For information on free boating safety courses conducted by the OHP Marine Enforcement Section, please call (405) 522-1880 or go to the Oklahoma Boater Education website.


Safety requirements for all boats:

Personal flotation device or PFD (life jacket):

  • All boats must carry one wearable USCG-approved PFD for each person on board.
  • All passengers 12 years and younger on boats less than 26 feet in length must wear a United States Coast Guard-approved PFD whenever the vessel is underway.
  • Life jackets must:
  • be United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved
  • be in good and serviceable condition, and
  • must be of suitable size for the intended person, and approved for the activity.

Each person on a personal watercraft, or PWC, or being towed on water skis or other devices, must wear a USCG-approved PFD at all times. Ski belts are not approved PFDs.

In addition to the wearable life jacket requirement, all boats 16 feet or greater in length shall also have on board at leats one USCG approved Type IV Throwable device.

Fire Extinguishers

All vessels using flammable liquid as fuel are required to have the proper type, size and number of fire extinguishers on board.

Fire Extinguisher Requirements:

Length of Vessel Without Fixed System With Fixed System
Less than 26 ft. One B-I None
26 ft. to less than 40 ft. Two B-I or One B-II One B-I
40 ft. to less than 65 ft. One B-I and One B-II Two B-I or One B-II

Who May Operate

A child under 12 years of age may NOT operate or be permitted to operate a boat or a personal watercraft with more than 10 horsepower, or sailing vessel 16 feet or greater in length.

Persons ages 12, 13, 14, and 15 years of age must successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved boating safety course before operating any vessel or PWC powered by a motor or combination of motors in excess of 10 horsepower or sailing vessel 16 feet or greater in length. If the vessel being operated is other than a personal watercraft, there must be a competent person at least 18 years of age on board the vessel in a position to take immediate control of the vessel if necessary. If the vessel being operated is a personal watercraft, there must be a competent person visually supervising the operator within 500 yards of the PWC.

Every vessel operator must carry either their original boating safety education certification card as proof they have completed the required course or photo identification as proof they are exempt from the education requirement. Failure to carry the boater education card or proper identification is a violation of state law.

Additional information about boating education can be found at www.okboated.com.


Alcohol and boating:

The effect of alcohol is magnified by natural stressors that are placed on your body while boating. Dehydration combined with exposure to sun, wind and waves magnify the effect of alcohol. Research has shown that approximately one-third the amount of alcohol needed to reach a state of legal intoxication (.08% BAC in a vessel), will cause symptoms of intoxication equal to a blood-alcohol level far exceeding the true measurable level. Symptoms include:

  • poor coordination
  • delayed reaction time
  • difficulty in multi-tasking, and
  • inattention.

If you drink while boating, designate a non-drinking boat operator just as you would designate a non-drinking driver.


Right-of-Way:

It is the duty of every vessel operator to take substantial and early action to avoid a collision.

There are right-of-way and safe operation laws governing the operation of boats on the waters.

There are two terms that help explain these rules:

  • Stand-on Vessel: The vessel that should maintain it's course and speed.
  • Give-way Vessel: The vessel that must take early and substantial action to avoid collision by stopping, slowing down or changing course.

Vessel Encounters

Meeting Head-On:

  • Power vs. Power: Neither vessel is the stand-on vessel. Both vessels should keep to the starboard (right).
  • Power vs. Sail: The powerboat is the give-way vessel. The sailboat is the stand-on vessel.

Crossing Situations

  • Power vs. Power: The vessel on the operator's port (left) side is the give-way vessel. The vessel on the operator's starboard (right) side is the stand-on vessel.
  • Power vs. Sail: The powerboat is the give-way vessel. The sailboat is the stand-on vessel.

Overtaking

  • Power vs. Power: The vessel that is overtaking another vessel is the give-way vessel. The vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.
  • Power vs. Sail: The vessel that is overtaking another vessel is the give-way vessel. The vessel being overtaken is the stand-on vessel.

Vessel operation:

Boats operated during the hours between sunset and sunrise, and during times of restricted visibility shall display navigation lights as required by law.
[See specific lighting requirements.]