Know the Rules for Water Safety While Boating

heading divider

Michigan residents love boats. Whether they are using big speed boats on the Great Lakes, quiet pontoon boats in the interior, or self-powered canoes and kayaks on the state’s many rivers, Michigan boaters love to get out on the water. Avoid letting a boating accident ruin your vacation. Keep these water safety rules in mind whenever you’re on the water.

Do I Need a Life Jacket?

You should always wear a life jacket when you are on the water. Michigan law doesn’t require adults to wear life jackets in boats (only on personal watercraft like jet skis). But many boat accident deaths could have been avoided simply by clicking on that personal flotation device.

What type of flotation aid you need depends on what you plan to do in the water:

  • Type I Off-Shore Life Jackets are best for open waters like the Great Lakes. They turn an unconscious wearer face-up in the water.
  • Type II Near-Shore Buoyant Vests are good for calm inland lakes and rivers. These are less bulky than Type I and more comfortable, but won’t help if the rescue takes a long time.
  • Type III Flotation Aids are designed continuous wear but don’t hold you face-up in the water. These are things like water-rings worn around the waist.
  • Type IV Throwable Devices can be thrown to someone in need or used for seat cushions in a boat. These are good where there is heavy boat traffic.

Do I Need a Boater’s Safety Certificate?

Michigan offers boating safety classes and certificates that ensures that boat pilots and watercraft operators know what to do in an emergency. A boating safety certificate is required for:

  • Children over 12 years of age operating a motor boat with 6 – 35 horsepower. Children must also be supervised by someone over 16.
  • Anyone born after July 1, 1996 operating a boat.
  • Teens age 14 and 15 operating a personal watercraft.
  • Anyone born after 1978 operating a personal watercraft.

Classes are held at different times all across the state. You can find a class convenient to you on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources database.

Do I Need a Float Plan?

Many boat accidents turn fatal because a fallen boater isn’t found soon enough after a crash. One way to avoid this is to write out a float plan and leave it with a friend, neighbor, or family member. When you hit land, check in with that person. If he or she doesn’t hear from you within a set time, it’s time to call the emergency responders.

Particularly in Lake Superior or during cold-weather boating, it is important that you get out of the water quickly to protect your health and prevent hypothermia. By putting yourself on a schedule and checking in with someone regularly, you can make sure that you don’t spend hours in the water waiting for someone to notice you are gone.

Water safety is critical to preventing boating accidents. Take the time to refresh yourself on the rules of the water before you set out on your next adventure.