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In the United States, can any teenager (age 13-19) drive a boat without having a drivers license? Is it possible to get some type of a license through some type of course that would allow them to drive a boat? If they could, what are the restrictions if any? I'm mostly interested in the following states but a state by state breakdown would be preferred if possible,

  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin
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    Boating is generally regulated by each state. Can you narrow down which state or states you're interested in? – mkennedy Mar 17 '16 at 21:48
  • @mkennedy Yes, I will edit – Tom Mar 17 '16 at 22:01
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In Illinois, there were previously no restrictions for those 13 and older. However:

NOTE: Beginning on January 1, 2016, no person born on or after January 1, 1998, unless exempted by subsection (i), shall operate a motorboat with over 10 horse power unless that person has a valid Boating Safety Certificate issued by the Department of Natural Resources or an entity or organization recognized and approved by the Department. Please check back at a later date for more details.

Persons at least 12 years of age and less than 18 years of age may only operate a motorboat if:

  • They have in possession a valid Boating Education Certificate of Competency issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Safety Education Division, or
  • They are accompanied on the motorboat and under direct control of a parent of guardian, or a person at least 18 years of age designated by a parent or guardian.

Emphasis in original. Source: https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/safety/Pages/BoatingSafety.aspx

In Wisconsin,

Who May Operate/Age Restrictions

It is illegal for a parent or guardian to allow a child to operate a vessel in violation of the requirements below.

Motorboats (Other Than a Personal Watercraft)

A person under the age of 10 may not operate a motorboat.

A person 10 or 11 years old may operate a motorboat only if accompanied by a parent, a guardian, or a person at least 18 years old who is designated by the parent or guardian.

A person 12-15 years old may operate a motorboat only if:

  • He or she is accompanied by a parent, a guardian, or a person at least 18 years old who is designated by the parent or guardian or …
  • He or she has completed a boating safety course that is accepted by the Wisconsin DNR.

A person at least 16 years old may operate a motorboat only if he or she has completed a boating safety course that is accepted by the Wisconsin DNR. A person born before January 1, 1989, is exempt from the safety course requirement.

Personal Watercraft (PWC)

A person under the age of 12 may not operate a PWC.

A person 12-15 years old may operate a PWC only if he or she has completed a boating safety course that is accepted by the Wisconsin DNR. (Parental supervision is not a substitute for a boating safety course certificate as with other motorboats.)

A person at least 16 years old may operate a PWC only if he or she has completed a boating safety course that is accepted by the Wisconsin DNR. A person born before January 1, 1989, is exempt from the safety course requirement.

A person under the age of 16 may not rent or lease a PWC.

Emphasis removed. Source: https://www.boat-ed.com/wisconsin/handbook/page/6/Who-May-Operate%7CAge-Restrictions/

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