South Carolina Boating Laws
When it comes to enjoying the waterways of South Carolina, knowing and adhering to the state’s boating laws is an absolute necessity. Whether you are an expert mariner or a novice boater, certain rules govern your actions while on the water.
Boat Speed Regulations
According to South Carolina law, boat operators must be cautious about their vessel’s speed in specific areas. They also cannot exceed idle speed within 50 feet of anchored vessels or any person in the water:
“No person may… (6)(a) operate a personal watercraft, specialty propcraft, or vessel while upon the waters of Lake Greenwood, Lake Hartwell, Lake Jocassee, Lake Keowee, Lake Marion, Lake Monticello, Lake Murray, Lake Robinson, Lake Russell, Lake Secession, Lake Thurmond, Lake Wateree, Fishing Creek Reservoir, Parr Reservoir, or the portion of the Savannah River from the Interstate 20 Savannah River Bridge to the New Savannah River Bluff Lock and Dam in excess of idle speed within one hundred feet of a wharf, dock, bulkhead, or pier or fifty feet of a moored or anchored vessel or person in the water…”
Additionally, boats must maintain this same speed limit within proximity to docks, wharfs, or piers. Operators also can’t exceed idle speed within a 100-yard distance from the coastline.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
Safety is paramount when it comes to boating laws. In South Carolina, each boat must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable personal flotation device for every individual on board. This ensures that in case of emergencies or accidents, lives can be protected by keeping individuals afloat.
Use of Navigational Lights
To assure visibility and prevent collisions during low-light situations, boat operators are mandated by law to use navigational lights from sunset until sunrise:
“The required navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.”
Depending on the type and length of your boat, the required navigational lights can change.
For additional safety measures especially while boating in coastal waters, South Carolina law requires boats to have flares on board. These can be used as distress signals during emergencies, helping draw the attention of rescuers or other nearby vessels.
In the unfortunate event of a boating accident that leads to serious consequences such as loss of consciousness, fatality, or severe disability requiring medical treatment, it’s obligatory that the involved boat operators report these incidents promptly:
“(20) “Reportable boating accident” means an accident, collision, or other casualty involving a vessel subject to this chapter which results in loss of life, injury which results in loss of consciousness, necessity for medical treatment, necessity to carry a person from the scene, disability which prevents the discharge of normal duties beyond the day of casualty, or actual physical damage to property including vessels in excess of the minimum amount set by the United States Coast Guard for reportable accidents.”
Boating Under The Influence (BUI)
In alignment with traffic laws on land, boating under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances is strictly prohibited in South Carolina. Violation can lead to severe penalties like hefty fines, jail time, community service, and more.
South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina is three years from the date the injury occurred. This means that if you suffer an injury while boating, you have three years to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.
If the claim is not filed within this period, the civil courts may decline to hear your case, even if your injury is severe. Being aware of this time limit is crucial in securing the compensation you deserve.
South Carolina’s boating laws emphasize safety above all else. Familiarizing yourself with these rules minimizes your personal risks while promoting responsible navigation and protection of the state’s water resources. If you have any questions or need help with a boating accident, contact our Charleston boat accident attorneys today to schedule a free consultation.