Boating is a great way to spend time with family or friends while appreciating Michigan’s many lakes and miles of scenic Great Lakes coastline. However, when an accident happens, a pleasant day on the water can end disastrously. The good news is that many injuries and fatalities can be prevented by taking simple safety precautions. These 10 boating safety tips can help you be a more conscientious boater and avoid a serious accident.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 613 people died and another 2,559 were injured as a result of 4,168 recreational boating accidents during 2019. Drowning was the cause of 79% of these deaths, 86% of the victims were not wearing life jackets.
Other common – and preventable – causes of fatal boating accidents included operator inexperience, distracted boat drivers, excessive speed and alcohol use.
Most boating fatalities are caused by drowning. If someone goes overboard, a life jacket can keep them afloat until help arrives. Familiarize yourself with the Michigan requirements for Personal Flotation Devices (PDFs) and equip your boat accordingly.
Recommended reading: 5 Michigan Life Jacket Laws to Know this Summer
Keep a boat safety kit on board that includes tools, a flashlight, duct tape, a bucket, a whistle, rope, a fire extinguisher, garbage bags, extra clothing, flares and a first aid kit.
Provide a float plan to someone on land, including your route and final destination, the names of everyone on board and when you plan to return.
For trips on larger bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, make sure there is someone else on board who can operate the boat.
Like roads and highways, waterways also have speed limits. In Michigan, the maximum speed limit is 55 mph in all waters except the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair, where the 55 mph limit applies only to boats within one mile of the shoreline.
Weather conditions can change rapidly on the water, so check the weather forecast for the immediate area and future destinations to make sure it is safe to proceed.
Do a pre-launch check to make sure you have enough fuel, the required number of life jackets and a properly-stocked emergency kit.
In addition, obtain a period professional boat inspection or request a free vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Operator inattention and improper lookout are major causes of fatal boating accidents. Like automobile drivers, boat operators should avoid distracting activities and interactions that take their attention away from driving the boat in a safe and responsible manner.
Alcohol use was the major contributing factor in 23% of fatal boating accidents. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal as well as dangerous. Michigan laws regarding alcohol use on boats, including a BAC limit of .08, are similar to those for automobile drivers, with similar penalties for violating the laws. In addition, passengers should limit their alcohol consumption so they will be able to react quickly and responsibly in case of an emergency.
Recommended reading: Boating Alcohol Laws in Michigan: What You Need to Know
Open the hatches and check enclosed spaces and other places where carbon monoxide is likely to accumulate. If you smell gas, do not start the engine.
Statistics show the operator had not received proper boating safety instruction In 70% of fatal boating accidents. In addition, most Michigan boaters are required to have a boater education card issued by The Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Visit the DNR website for information on approved online courses.
Most boats have a capacity plate, usually located near the operator or on the transom, that specifies the maximum number of people and weight capacity the boat can safely carry. If there is no capacity plate, follow the recommendations in the owner’s manual and on the manufacturer’s warning decal.
Recommended reading: Top 10 Causes of Fatal Boating Accidents
Even the most careful boater can have an accident due to someone else’s negligence. If you or a loved one is injured in a boating accident, call us right away. Our experienced legal team will fight to win the compensation you and your family deserve.
Boating accident law is complicated, but finding the right boating accident lawyer is simple.
Don’t let the legal clock run out. Get started today by filling out the form below or calling 1-800-CALL-SAM for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety of your home.
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