Home to many beautiful waterways, Indiana is a great state for boating. However, like all recreational sports, boating safety is not something to overlook. While knowing the rules and regulations makes for a solid foundation, it’s also important to understand what types of accidents are most likely to occur on a boat, and why.
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Operating and Owning Boats in Indiana
To operate a boat in Indiana, you simply need to be a licensed driver. However, anyone over 15 who has completed the Boat Indiana course either online or in a classroom is also able to drive a boat. This course explains things like rules of navigation and is recommended for anyone who intends to drive a boat in Indiana, but it’s not required. Another important detail is to ensure that all boats you own or operate are legally registered with the state. Registration fees range from $5-$25 depending on the class of the vessel.
Notes on Registering your Boat with the State of Indiana
- Some boats don’t need to be registered like, canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats. Motorized watercraft from another country or state don’t need to be registered if they’ve been in Indiana less than two months, or if the owner has paid the Indiana excise taxes and fees. Lastly, any boats moored on the Indiana part of Lake Michigan for not more than six months don’t have to be registered.
- To apply for a certificate, boat owners need to provide proof of ownership like a title or this Watercraft Ownership Affidavit.
- The BMV issues a certificate, a registration number and two decals. The certificate must be on board the craft at all times, and the decals and registration number must be displayed. For new boat owners and those that need a refresher, there are specific rules about affixing the decals and registration numbers to your boat. It’s best to double check these before hitting the water.
- Registrations must be renewed annually before the expiration date is up.
Boating Safety in Indiana
The top cause of boating accidents in Indiana is an inattentive operator. Operator inexperience and excessive speed follow closely behind as causes of accidents. Because there’s no formalized training for operating a boat, it makes sense that operator inexperience would be a factor in accidents. Drunk driving is also a factor in many serious boating accidents, like one that made news in 2017 on Lake Gage near Angola, Indiana. A sharp turn made by a drunk boat driver caused all ten passengers to be ejected from the boat, with four suffering serious injury. It’s important to remember that Indiana Department of Natural Resources generally enforces a 10 mile per hour speed limit for boats after sunset, and that may be the speed limit during the day too, even when depth is as much as 200 feet.
The most common types of boating accident or injury are drowning and trauma from near drowning. Fortunately, wearing a life vest can protect you in over 90% of cases. In Indiana, all persons on board a boat must wear a life vest along with all persons being towed behind on water equipment like inner tubes or water skis. If an accident occurs and a passenger is injured while not wearing a life vest, the boat owner may be liable.