New Law Affects Use of Personal Watercraft on Arkansas Lakes and Rivers

Kerry Kraus
If you’re planning on visiting any of Arkansas’s beautiful lakes and rivers, you need to be aware of a new watercraft law that goes into effect July 10.  The legislative act, known as “Rachel’s Law,” raises the minimum age for individuals to legally operate a personal watercraft.  The previous minimum age had been 14; it now is 16.  The law covers personal watercraft such as jet skis, Sea Doos and Waverunners.

The law is named in memory of Rachel Rutherford, a Little Rock teen who died in 2007 after a jet skiing accident.


According to the Arkansas Game& Fish Commission, while the law primarily affects teen boaters, other age groups are covered as well.  “This is the first time the boating education law applies to someone besides the operator,” said Bob Cushing, AGFC boating education coordinator. Boat operators between 12 and 15 years of age may operate a personal watercraft only when accompanied by an individual at least 18 years old who was born before 1986 or has a valid boating education certificate. Additionally, the accompanying person must be in position to take immediate control of the vessel.”

By law, all Arkansas boat operators born after Jan. 1, 1986 must complete an approved AGFC boating education course. A course may be completed in any of the following ways: in an instructor-led course free of charge, online for $15, or, for a limited time, via a home study course which includes a DVD or video available for purchase online. For more information about boating courses, visit  or call 877-493-6424.



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