Summer is officially here and that means a lot of people are going to taking to the waterways of South Carolina for some fun in the sun.  With that comes an increase of accidents happening.  Just this past July Fourth, 3 boaters were arrested for Boating Under the Influence in Beaufort County.  It is important to know the state’s laws on boating safety set forth by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Anyone 16 years of age or older may operate a boat with proper identification, i.e. a government issued ID.  Children under the age of 16 must complete a boating course, approved by the SCDNR to operate a boat with a 15 horse power motor or greater, unless accompanied by an adult who is 18 years or age or older.

According to the SCDNR, negligent, reckless, and other illegal boat operation may include:

  • Weaving your boat through congested traffic
  • Causing your boat to the leave the water completely while crossing the wake of the another boat with 200 feet or the other boat
  • Chasing, harassing, or disturbing wildlife
  • Failing to maintain a proper lookout for other boats or persons
  • Boating in restricted areas without regard for other boaters or persons, posted speed and wake restrictions
  • Allowing people to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom seat backs, seats on raised decks, or any other place where there may be a chance of falling overboard
  • Allowing passengers to swim within 50 feet of a public landing or ramp

The SCDNR has the following speed regulations for boating:

  • Failure to regulate speed is defined as operating a boat at speeds that may cause danger, injury, damage, or an unnecessary inconvenience
  • You may NOT operate a boat in excess of idle speed (no wake) within 50 feet of:
  1. A moored or anchored boat
  2. A wharf, pier, or dock
  3. A person in the water
  • It is illegal to operate a boat in excess of idle speed within 100 yards of the Atlantic coastline
  • You must maintain idle speed when you see a boat with flashing blue lights
  • Boat operators are responsible for any damage caused by their wake.


South Carolina law prohibits anyone under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both from operating a boat.  Penalties may include fines up to $6,000.00 and up to three years in jail.  A person charged with boating under the influence may also lose their boating privileges for up two years and must successfully complete and Alcohol and Drug Safety Action course as well as a South Carolina boating safety course, all at their own expense.  Felony boating under the influence may have a fine as much as $25,000.00 and up to a 25 year jail sentence.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by someone’s boating recklessness, please contact The Kerr Law Firm at 1-800-350-2990 or locally at 1-843-785-3330.  You may also email us at  We are happy to offer you a free consultation.