Boating speed regulations in Louisiana are similar to speed limits on the roadways. They exist to ensure boaters operate their vessels at a safe speed to prevent accidents that could injure themselves and others.

When heading out on any of Louisiana’s many waterways like our lakes, rivers, and swamps, boaters must follow the speed limits set for that area and all other boating regulations, per state law. Understanding the state’s boating speed laws and general regulations can help you keep yourself and everyone else on the water safe.

Boating Regulations in Louisiana

Louisiana’s Revised Statutes (RS 34:851.4) outline several rules regarding the careless operation of a watercraft. These include the following speed and non-speed related regulations:

  • You must be at least 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft.
  • Boaters born after January 1, 1984, must complete an approved boater education course to operate a vessel.
  • Do not operate the boat while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or narcotics.
  • Vessels should keep to the right when passing other boats head-on.
  • Always yield the right-of-way to vessels departing from piers, landing docks, the shoreline, or a tributary.
  • Slow down to the minimum steering speed and let another vessel pass if you cannot easily determine its course.
  • Slow down or stop as needed when yielding the right-of-way to avoid a collision. If you have the right of way, maintain your course and speed.
  • Use warning signals in foggy or low-visibility conditions.
  • Avoid causing a hazardous wash or wake when approaching or passing another vessel by slowing your speed
  • Your speed should be appropriate for the current conditions and allow you to retain complete control of the vessel.
  • Always respect local speed limits and no-wake zones.

Speed Limits for Boats in Louisiana

Per statute RS 34:851:27, Louisiana has no statewide boating speed limit. However, the law allows local governments, such as parishes and municipalities, to establish boating speed limits on waterways within their jurisdictions.

According to the New Orleans Code of Ordinances, motorized sea vessels cannot exceed 5 mph when traveling within 200 yards of the water’s edge from the New Basin Canal to Little Woods or 100 yards of the seawall in Lake Pontchartrain.

If you operate a boat in St. Tammany Parish, you cannot exceed 45 miles per hour on a specific stretch of the Tchefuncte River or the Pearl River Navigation Canal.

Speed limits on waterways can vary due to many factors. Due to the specificity of speed limits on each waterway, you should always check and obey local ordinates or posted speed limits when operating your vessel. Following speed limits while boating ensures the safety of all waterway users.

Avoiding excessive speeds when boating helps you effectively control your vessel and quickly respond to unexpected situations, reducing the risk of collisions and accidents. It also provides better maneuverability, improves visibility, and allows ample time to react to obstacles or hazards, such as other boats, stationary and submerged objects, or swimmers.

Other Boating Safety Tips

When operating a vessel on Louisiana waterways, you can take several steps in addition to maintaining a safe speed to prevent injuries. Follow these additional safety tips before heading out on the water:

Wear Life Jackets

According to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) statistics, of the 767 boating fatalities recorded in 2020, 86% of victims were not wearing a life jacket or a personal flotation device (PFD). Ensure you and all your passengers wear their life jackets at all times.

Don’t Drink and Boat

Drinking and boating is as dangerous as drinking and driving. According to the 2022 USCG Recreational Boating Statistics report, 55 boating incidents in Louisiana between 2018 and 2022 were linked to alcohol use, resulting in 21 deaths and 67 injuries.

Avoid Distracted Boating

While no specific laws in Louisiana prohibit using a mobile phone while boating, distractions can be fatal. According to a 2022 USCG report, operator inattention is one of the top five causes of boating fatalities nationwide, alongside excessive speed.

Injured in a Boating Accident? Call Dudley DeBosier Today

Have you or a loved one been injured in a boating accident due to a negligent operator? The experienced boat accident attorneys at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers can help you file a claim. We will help you gather the facts, contact witnesses, and build your case to get compensation on your behalf. Contact us today for a free case review.

This content has been reviewed by Chad Lederman, Director of Legal Operations at our New Orleans office.

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