All boaters, regardless of experience, are encouraged to take a boating safety class to learn about Idaho boating laws and pick up some boating safety tips. Many families take the course together so both adults and children can safely operate their boat. Some insurance companies even offer discount to those boat owners that successfully complete the “Boat Idaho” boat safety course. Check with your insurance agent to see if you are eligible.

Negligent Operation

It is unlawful for any person to operate any vessel in a careless or heedless manner so as to be indifferent to any person or property of other persons, or at a rate of speed greater than will permit him in the exercise of reasonable care to bring the vessel to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.

Negligent operation includes, but is not limited to, operating at a speed greater than no wake or five miles per hour while within 200 feet of a dock, swimmer or other person in the water (except when safely pulling a water skier from a dock or shore); becoming airborne or completely leaving the water while crossing the wake of another vessel while within 100 feet of the vessel creating the wake; weaving through congested traffic; or operating at such a speed and proximity to another vessel, person or property of another person so as to require the operator to swerve at the last moment to avoid a collision.

Vessel operators are responsible for damage caused by their wake. Slow down and minimize disturbance or damage to other vessels, docks, floating homes and shoreline installations.

Grossly Negligent Operation

It is unlawful for any person to operate any vessel in such a manner as to endanger life, limb, or damage the property of any person.

Alcohol and Drug Use

It is unlawful for any person to operate or be in actual physical control of any vessel while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances. A blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher for persons 21 years of age or older constitutes “under the influence.” A blood alcohol concentration of .02 or higher for persons under the age of 21 constitutes “under the influence.” Any person refusing to submit to evidentiary testing for the presence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances shall be assessed a civil penalty of $200.

The maximum penalty for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a $1,000 fine and/or six months in the county jail. Those convicted are also required to attend and successfully complete a course on safe boating, and may lose their privileges to operate a boat for up to two years.

Any person causing great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to any person other than himself while operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is guilty of a felony and shall be sentenced to the state board of corrections for a period not to exceed five years, with a minimum of 30 days. He may also be fined up to $5,000, and shall have his privileges to operate a vessel suspended by the court for a mandatory period of one year after the release from prison.


Many organizations and government agencies offer education courses and training in proper boat operation. These include the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR), the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadron, and Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.

Visit for information on the Boat Idaho Course.

The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office will be conducting a Boat Idaho Course about 3 times each spring/summer season for the boating public wanting to learn basic boating laws and safety. The class begins at 9:00 am at the Marine Division boat house located at 4001 N. Boyer. The class is expected to last about six hours. The Boat Idaho Course is free to the public and is open to residents of any state. This course will teach you about boating safety and the requirements and equipment needed. Basic boating laws and the rules of the road with regard to navigation and boater courtesy will be instructed. Any questions, or for further information, or sign up for the course call 263-8417 ex 3125

FREE Boating Safety Classes


Online Education and Test Providers


Boater Exam 

Boat U.S. Foundation


Boat-Ed Safety Matters Video Series

Boat U.S. Foundation How to Select and Fit a Life Jacket on a Child

Boat U.S. Boating Simulation Games

Coldwater Safety Training and Information

Boating Safety PSA #1- with Idaho’s Hale Family

Boating Safety PSA #2 – with Captain Keith Colburn


Idaho Boating Handbook – Provided by Boat-Ed

Idaho Statutes – Idaho Safe Boating Act

Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Rules (IDAPA)

Sharpen your Skills – Boating Safety Practice Quiz

Free Online Paddling Course

Learn about Navigation Rules

For more information:

Sadie Kennel

Boating Program Specialist

Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

P.O. Box 83702

Boise, ID 83720-0065

Tel: (208) 514-2417 email:

Boating Education Coordinator or Boating Law Administrator

Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

P.O. Box 83720 Boise ID 83720-0065 

Tel: (208) 334-4199