A Guide To Boating Laws in Michigan
August 14, 2018
In a state that borders four of the five Great Lakes and boasts more than 11,000 inland lakes and waterways, Michiganders and boats are a natural combination. Whether it’s a quiet scenic ride or a lively group outing with family and friends, there is nothing like gliding over the water to bring peace and perspective to our hectic land lives.
Like passenger vehicles and motorcycles, boating has its own set of laws and regulations designed to maximize safety and ensure a pleasurable experience for all.
Here is a brief guide to the most important boating laws in Michigan:
Alcohol and Boating Under The Influence
In the spring of 2015, new laws regarding alcohol consumption for boaters went into effect. The legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit was changed from .10 to .08, the same standard that applies to motor vehicle drivers. For boat operators under 21, there is a zero-tolerance policy. The ban on boat drivers who are stopped by law enforcement and refuse to take a sobriety test was increased from six months to one year. Operating a boat while intoxicated with a passenger 16 years old or younger on board is now considered a misdemeanor violation.
Life Jackets Save Lives
In the case of an accident, a life jacket, or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), can make a critical difference. The law states that children less than 6 years old must wear a Type I or Type II PFD when riding in the open deck area of a boat. Vessels less than 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or IV PFD for each person on board. A vessel less than 16 feet that is used on the Great Lakes or connecting waterways must carry one approved Type I, II or III device for each person on board. Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II or III for each person on board, must carry one type IV, with the exception of canoes and kayaks. All PFDs must be readily available and may not be enclosed in plastic bags or other containers.
See the DNR website (link below) for a description of each type of life jacket.
Age Restrictions on Boat Operators
Individuals born before July 1, 1996, may legally operate a boat without restrictions.
Those born on or after July 1, 1996, as well as most personal watercraft operators, must have a boater education card (boating safety certificate) in order to legally operate a boat.
Children less than 12 years of age are allowed to operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) without restrictions.
To operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp, but no more than 35 hp, children under 12 must have a boating safety certificate on board and be directly supervised by someone who is at least 16 years of age. No one under the age of 12 may legally operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp under any circumstances.
Boater Registration—It’s The Law
All motorized boats must be registered with the Secretary of State, which will then assign an identification number. This number must be displayed on the boat so it is visible on both sides and above the water. Boats under 16 feet, propelled by hand either with oars or paddles and not used for rental purposes, do not need to be registered with the Secretary of State.
Boating Safety Tips
- Don’t drink while driving a boat. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol is a leading factor in boating accidents. Even passengers should limit their alcohol intake. In case of an accident or emergency, everyone should be able to think and act quickly and sensibly.
- Obey the laws regarding the number and type of accessible life vests you should have on board. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, most people who drown in boating accidents could have survived if they had been wearing life jackets.
- Don’t speed. The maximum speed is 55 m.p.h. in all water except the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair. On those lakes, boats within one mile of the shoreline must also adhere to the 55 m.p.h. speed limit. In general, boaters should maintain a speed that will allow them to stop safely when necessary.
- Drive safely and considerately. Michigan boating law requires boat operators to drive carefully and prudently so as not to endanger the lives or property of other boaters.
“Boating is a great way to enjoy Michigan’s many lakes and waterways, but accidents do happen,” said Mark Bernstein of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm. “If you or a loved one is involved in a boating accident, call us immediately. We will evaluate the situation and help you get the compensation you deserve.”
Michigan boating law is complicated, but finding the right boating accident attorney is simple.
Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free no-obligation consultation.