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§20-7-18d. Operation of personal watercrafts.

(a) No person under the age of fifteen may operate a personal watercraft on the waters of this state: Provided, That a person that has attained the age of twelve may operate a personal watercraft if a person eighteen years or older is aboard the personal watercraft.

(b) A person may not operate a personal watercraft unless each person on board or being towed behind is wearing a type I, type II, type III, or type V personal flotation device approved by the United States Coast Guard. Inflatable personal flotation devices do not meet the requirements of this section.

(c) A person operating a personal watercraft equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard-type engine cutoff switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or personal flotation device as appropriate for the specific vessel.

(d) A person may not operate a personal watercraft at anytime between the hours of sunset and sunrise. However, an agent or employee of a fire rescue, emergency rescue unit, or law-enforcement division is exempt from this subsection while performing his or her official duties.

(e) A personal watercraft must at all times be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. Maneuvers which unreasonably or unnecessarily endanger life, limb, or property constitute reckless operation of a vessel and include, but are not limited to:

(1) Weaving through congested traffic;

(2) Jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably or unnecessarily close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is obstructed or restricted;

(3) Becoming airborne or completely leaving the water while crossing the wake of another vessel within one hundred feet of the vessel creating the wake;

(4) Operating at a greater than slow or no-wake speed within one hundred feet of an anchored or moored vessel, shoreline, dock, pier, swim float, marked swim areas, swimmers, surfers, persons engaged in angling, or any manually powered vessel;

(5) Operating contrary to navigation rules including following too closely to another vessel, including another personal watercraft. For the purpose of this subdivision, "following too closely" is construed as a proceeding in the same direction and operating at a speed in excess of ten miles per hour within one hundred feet to the rear or fifty feet to the side of another vessel which is underway, unless said vessels are operating in a narrow channel, in which case the personal watercraft may operate at the speed and flow of the other vessel traffic within the channel.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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