Michigan Water and Boating: Summer Safety

It’s all fun and games on the water until someone gets hurt. Or worse, a water accident can prove to be a fatal one.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resoruces, 90 percent of boating and water fatalities in Michigan could have been prevented if users had been wearing personal flotation devices, or lifejackets. In Michigan, it is the law to have lifejackets for every person on board a 16 foot boat whether it be motorized or not, as well as a throw ring.


Besides wearing your lifejacket, other safety tips to think about before your next boating excursion are:

  1. Tell someone your boating plan.

Whether it be a trusted family member, friend or employee at your local marina, it is smart to tell someone your boating plan. This can include what time you’re leaving, how long you plan on being out, where you plan on going, who is accompanying you, phone numbers of all passengers, boat type and registration and types of communication or signal equipment onboard. It’s best to be safe rather than sorry.

  1. Keep a weather eye on the horizon.

It’s always a good idea to know the weather forecast if you’re headed out on your boat. We all know that, in Michigan, weather can change in an instant so you better not take any chances. You never want to be around water if lightning is threatening, anyway. Be sure to get off the water if the temperature drops suddenly, rough winds charge the area or clouds darken rapidly.

  1. Don’t drink and “captain.”

Drinking is often paired with boating, but it’s best to keep drinks in the cooler until later. Boat skippers need to be alert, attentive and on-duty at all times while operating the vessel. In fact, in Michigan, boat captains must follow the same laws and policies as if they were operating a vehicle. You can still be pulled over by law enforcement while on the water and charged with a BUI, or boating under the influence.

  1. Stay calm under pressure.

If you do find yourself in a serious situation while on the water, remember to stay calm. Panicking under pressure will only make the situation worse as you tire faster, can’t make decisions clearly and create an unhealthy atmosphere. Take a moment to remember your preparation and training for emergency situations and take control of the situation.

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources coordinate regular boating safety classes in Michigan, and Marine Safety Specialist within DNR Law Enforcement Division, Sgt. Al Bavarskas hosts a free, annual boating safety class at the Detroit Boat Show.

“The class is free and from the law enforcement perspective. You have the opportunity to get real-world advice and tips, as well as certification, from the people that will be looking out for your safety on the water. Most water accidents can be prevented and that starts with a class like this,” said Sgt. Bavarskas.

If you have any further questions regarding boating and water safety, please contact Sgt. Bavarskas.

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Photo Credit: Bas Leenders via Flickr (feature) and Dana Blankenship, A Healthier Michigan (inset)

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  1. It’s sad to see that 90% of fatalities could’ve been prevented by a life vest. You would think that wearing one would be common sense. Letting someone know where you are and how long you plan to be out is a smart idea. Thanks for sharing.

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