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PWC are typically regulated more than other powerboats. Many states require both a minimum age and proof of passing a boating education course in order to legally operate a PWC. Strict measures are in place regarding the hours of operation, towing, life jacket wear and the requirement to attach the safety lanyard.  Additionally, safe operation of a PWC may include staying a minimum distance away from other boats, and slowing to no wake speed in certain areas.

The term reckless operation means that if you are observed by a law enforcement officer operating in a manner deemed to have the possibility of endangering life, limb or property, you may be cited for operating in a reckless manner. You should always operate your PWC safely and legally to avoid any mishaps on the water, or receiving a ticket from a law enforcement officer.

Tennessee PWC Laws

Personal Watercraft” (PWC) means a vessel propelled by machinery which is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel rather than being operated by a person sitting or standing inside the vessel.

  • Everyone on a PWC must wear a Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device as approved by the USCG. Inflatables are prohibited.
  • PWC may be operated only between sunrise and sunset.

Operator age
Persons under 12 years of age may not operate a personal watercraft unless an adult is on board who can take immediate control of the boat.


  • Personal watercraft being used to tow skiers, surfboards or other devices must be equipped with 2 mirrors (at least 2 1/2 by 4 inches) or have a person, 12 years of age or older, to observe the progress of the skier.  The mirrors must be mounted on each side of the personal watercraft (not on the handle bars).

Reckless operation of a PWC:

  • Any operation which endangers life, limb, or property.
  • Maneuvers such as, but not limited to, weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably or unnecessarily close to said vessel or when visibility around said vessel is obstructed, or riding unreasonably or unnecessarily close to ramps, docks, or the shore.
Jumping the immediate wake (within 100 feet) of another vessel, weaving through congested vessel traffic and riding close to ramps, docks, or the shore is considered reckless operation.


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