Stay safe on the water

For many in Michigan, the Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and that means dropping the boat in your favorite lake, river or stream. Before you hit the water, be sure you’ve taken steps to guarantee a safe time for all aboard.

To elevate that message during National Safe Boating Week (May 20-26) and all season long, the DNR is again teaming up with McDonald’s of Michigan to increase awareness of boater safety and the importance of wearing life jackets.

From Memorial Day weekend through the Labor Day holiday, conservation officers will hand out vouchers to youth and teens who are seen wearing life jackets while boating. Each voucher is valid for a free ice cream cone or apple slice package at participating McDonald’s of Michigan locations.

“We’re in our third year of this partnership, and it’s always nice to see kids and parents get excited when we reward them for being safe on the water, and have that positive law enforcement interaction,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, the DNR’s state boating law administrator and recreational safety, education and enforcement supervisor. “A fun day of boating begins with safety. A tasty treat on the way home is a wonderful way to end the day and, hopefully, launch a family talk about boating safety.”

The most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the cause of death in 81% of national boating-related fatalities in 2021. Of those drownings, 83% of victims were not wearing life jackets, and two of every three victims were considered good swimmers.

“Taking time now to check your gear, brush up on boating laws and plan for safety can prevent problems later,” Wanless said. “Incidents can happen at any time, and weather can quickly affect conditions on inland waters and the Great Lakes. Familiarizing yourself and fellow boaters with safety tips and equipment can mean the difference between a perfect day on the water and a needlessly tragic outcome.”

Those born after June 30, 1996, need a boating safety certificate to operate a boat on the water. If you were born after Dec. 31, 1978, and want to operate a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski, you also need a valid boater education safety certificate.

The DNR offers boating safety education as an online and traditional classroom course to teach new and experienced boaters about current laws and safe operation.÷

Learn more about boating opportunities, safety information and other resources at Michigan.gov/Boating.


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