The statistics are staggering: the California Department of Boating and Waterways reports that in 2011 there were 512 boating accidents resulting in 313 injuries and 54 deaths on California’s waters. The amount of property damage from boating accidents in 2011 was $2,142,655. The leading cause of boating accidents was operator inattention.
The laws governing boat operation
Similar to the laws regulating the operation of motor vehicles on California's highways, the state has laws regulating the operation of boats on California's waterways. Operators of a boat must maintain a safe speed at all times to be able to avoid collisions and stop within a distance appropriate to the circumstances. The maximum speed for motorboats within 100 feet of a bather and 200 feet of a bathing beach, swimming float or diving platform is five miles per hour.
California law also prohibits the operation of any vessel, water skis or aquaplane in a reckless or negligent manner that puts others at risk. Examples of such negligent operation include:
Riding on the bow, gunwale or transom of a boat without a railing
Maneuvering towed skiers or devices to pass the towline over another vessel
Steering a boat, skis or other device between a towing vessel and its tow
Driving a boat while legally drunk or under the influence of drugs
Speeding in confined or restricted areas is also prohibited.
Serious penalties for hit-and-run accidents
A boat operator who is involved in an accident resulting in injury, death or disappearance must furnish personal information to others involved and to any peace officer at the scene and provide assistance to any injured person. Leaving the scene of a boating accident is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and or imprisonment of up to four years.