Search

Can the kids drive the boat - legally?

Updated: May 16

When we bought our boat, my son was chomping at the bit to drive it. I don’t know if it was the excitement of driving or being the captain in charge. Over the years, I’ve seen many young boys and girls (12+) at the helm: some with life jackets, some without, some with parents hovering behind them and others alone behind the wheel.

This led me to do some research, especially for Illinois & Wisconsin boating. Here’s a recap…


 

Illinois:

Under 10: No person under 10 years of age may operate a motorboat, including personal watercraft (PWC).

10 years and less than 12 years: may only operate under a parent or guardian's direct control.

12 years old but less than 18 years old: may operate a motorized vessel with more than 10 horsepower, including a PWC, only if:

· They complete a boating safety course and possess a Boating Safety Certificate accepted by the Department of Natural Resources or… · They are accompanied by and under the direct control of a parent, a guardian, or a person at least 18 years old designated by the parent or guardian*.

* Parents, guardians, or designees born on or after January 1, 1998, must have a valid boating safety certificate to supervise a person 10 to 17 years old who is operating a motorized vessel with more than 10 hp.

· All Children under the age of 13 MUST wear a PFD


The state of IL (through the Department of Natural Resources) recommends the following boating safety courses and certifications:

https://www.boat-ed.com/

https://www.boaterexam.com/

*We took the Boat-Ed courses for IL and it was a few hours to review the course and pass the exam.

More detailed info for Illinois here: https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/safety/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx


Wisconsin:

Under 10: No person under 10 years of age may operate a motorboat, including personal watercraft (PWC).

10 or 11 years old: may only operate under a parent or guardian's direct control or designated adult born after January 1, 1989.

12 – 15 years old: may operate a motorboat only if he/she:

· Is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or designated adult.

· Completed a boating safety course approved by the WI DNC

16+: must complete a boating safety accepted by Wisconsin DNR or be accompanied by someone 18+that holds a boating safety certificate.