23-2-523. Prohibited operation and mooring -- enforcement. (1) A person may not operate or knowingly permit a person to operate a motorboat or vessel or manipulate waterskis, a surfboard, or a similar device or other contrivance in a reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of a person by:
(a) engaging in maneuvers that unreasonably or unnecessarily endanger life, limb, or property, including but not limited to weaving through congested vessel traffic or jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably or unnecessarily close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is obstructed and including swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision, following directly behind a waterskier, speeding in confined or restricted areas, and buzzing or wetting down others, which constitute reckless operation of a vessel;
(b) crossing or jumping the wake of another vessel when within 100 yards of the vessel or within 100 yards of a waterskier being towed by the vessel, except when directly entering or leaving a public or private marina, waterski facility, or other watercraft docking or loading area.
(2) A person may not operate a motorboat, including a sailboat propelled by a motor of any kind, or manipulate waterskis, a surfboard, or a similar device attached to a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.
(3) It is unlawful for the owner of a motorboat or vessel or a person having the motorboat or vessel in charge or in control to authorize or knowingly permit the motorboat or vessel to be operated by a person who by reason of physical or mental disability is incapable of operating the watercraft under the prevailing circumstances.
(4) A person may not operate or knowingly permit a person to operate a motorboat or vessel at a rate of speed greater than will permit the person, in the exercise of reasonable care, to bring the vessel to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead. However, nothing in this part is intended to prevent the operator of a vessel actually competing in a regatta that is sanctioned by an appropriate governmental unit from attempting to attain high speeds on a marked racing course.
(5) A person may not make a reckless approach to, departure from, or passage by a dock, ramp, diving board, or float.
(6) Skiers being pulled by motorboats must have on their person a United States coast guard approved personal flotation device in good and serviceable condition.
(7) A person may not moor a vessel to buoys or beacons placed in any waters of this state by the authority of the United States, an agency of the United States, or the department or in any manner hang on with a vessel to a buoy or beacon, except in the act of maintenance work on the buoy or beacon, nor may any person deface, remove, or destroy a buoy, beacon, or other authorized navigational marker maintained in the waters of this state.
(8) If an officer whose duty it is to enforce this law observes a vessel being used without sufficient lifesaving or firefighting devices or in an overloaded or other unsafe condition and in the officer's judgment the use creates an especially hazardous condition, the officer may direct the operator to take whatever immediate and reasonable steps would be necessary for the safety of those aboard the vessel, including directing the operator to return to a mooring or launching site and to remain there until the situation creating the hazard is corrected or ended.
(9) The population density and heavy recreational use of certain lakes require a noise standard more restrictive than the standard set in 23-2-526 in order to protect the public health and safety. Unless operated on a river or stream in compliance with a rule adopted under 23-2-521, a person may not operate a motorboat or personal watercraft on Flathead Lake, situated in Lake and Flathead Counties, Echo Lake, situated in Flathead County, or Swan Lake, situated in Lake County, in proximity to the shoreline if the noise emitted is greater than 75 dbA measured at the shoreline in accordance with the shoreline sound level measurement procedure (SAE J1970).
(10) Unless accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older, a person 12 years of age or younger may not operate a motorboat or a personal watercraft that is powered by a motor rated at more than 10 horsepower. A person 13 or 14 years of age may not operate a vessel or personal watercraft powered by a motor rated at more than 10 horsepower without possessing a valid Montana motorboat operator's safety certificate or evidence of completion of a Montana-approved water safety course or unless accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older.
(11) A person who owns or has charge or control of a motorboat or personal watercraft powered by a motor rated at more than 10 horsepower may not authorize or knowingly permit the motorboat or personal watercraft to be operated:
(a) by a person 12 years of age or younger unless accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older; or
(b) by a person 13 or 14 years of age unless the person possesses a valid Montana motorboat operator's safety certificate or evidence of completion of a Montana-approved water safety course or is accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older.
(12) A person may not rent a motorboat or a personal watercraft powered by a motor rated at more than 10 horsepower to a person under 18 years of age.
History: En. Sec. 8, Ch. 285, L. 1959; amd. Sec. 7, Ch. 514, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 10, Ch. 124, L. 1977; amd. Sec. 13, Ch. 417, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 69-3508; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 497, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 728, L. 1991; amd. Sec. 12, Ch. 789, L. 1991; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 345, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 122, Ch. 42, L. 1997.