When the weather warms up, Lake Michigan becomes a big hot spot for recreational boaters. Many people love this iconic waterway’s soothing waves and great fishing opportunities. However, danger lurks in the water. If boaters don’t use good judgment, someone can go from having a fun day to becoming a statistic. Here are a few of the most important safety tips for boating on Lake Michigan.
Everyone Needs to Wear a Life Jacket
According to the Illinois law, your boat must have at least one life jacket per person. When US Coast Guard-approved life jackets are worn, fatality rates in boating accidents tend to decrease by up to 80%. The extra peace of mind is well worth it. In 2020 alone, more than 50 people drowned in Lake Michigan. If someone happens to fall overboard, a life jacket will help them to stay afloat and keep their head above water until they can be picked-up and rescued.
Contrary to popular belief, even the most skilled swimmer could find themselves in a dangerous predicament if they go overboard or if a boat capsizes. Simply putting on a life jacket will keep you prepared for the unknown.
Steer Clear of Alcohol
Research shows alcohol is a contributing factor in many boating tragedies. Furthermore, you can’t overlook the potential legal ramifications. If you injure or kill someone while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol, expect to face serious consequences. Prison time becomes a real possibility. While on the water, it’s important to maintain a strong sense of awareness at all times.
Even passengers should be smart about alcohol. Not only does excessive alcohol consumption hinder a person’s ability to make calculated decisions, but it also causes the body to dehydrate a lot quicker in the sun.
Keep Tabs on the Weather
Before you go boating on Lake Michigan, be sure to first check the weather forecast. When there’s a storm on the horizon, a beautiful day can quickly turn ugly. Lake Michigan is already known for its windy conditions. However, the powerful waves and intense wind gusts from a storm will create an especially treacherous atmosphere. This large body of water can become an unpredictable force of nature. The last thing you want is for your boat to capsize.
Always take action before a storm hits. To be on the safe side, keep a VHF marine radio on hand. You will then be able to quickly find out about any weather advisories.
Take a Boating Safety Course
In the state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources requires you to complete a boater safety course if you:
- Are ages 12 through 17 years old AND want to operate a motorboat without direct adult supervision.
- Were born on January 1, 1998 or later AND wish to operate a boat over 10 HP.
Approved safety courses contain at least 8 hours of instruction.
Regardless of your age, it’s still a good idea to sign up for a boating safety course. Far too many amateurs hit the water without knowing the best ways to handle emergencies. From fires to dangerous weather, there are a number of different crises that could occur.
While taking a boating safety course, you will learn proper boat etiquette and the rules of the lake. Nothing beats knowing how to properly navigate on water. There’s also a good chance your insurance company will give you a discount.
Don’t Venture Out on the Water Alone
Although you may be extremely confident in your boating abilities, think twice about venturing out on the water alone. At least bring along another buddy. If an unexpected situation arises, you’ll appreciate their help.
A friend will be able to do more than just provide companionship. They can also serve as your “spotter” when sailing across Lake Michigan. You can give them the task of watching out for potential hazards, especially swimmers and other water vessels. Navigational hazards, such as mooring buoys and floating docks, also deserve attention. It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes on deck. Two sets of eyes is better than one.
It’s easy to let down your guard while navigating a boat, especially when socializing with family and friends. However, don’t allow a party atmosphere to take your attention away from the task at hand. It’s important to stay focused.
You also need to put down your cell phone. Remember, inattention is one of the top causes of boating accidents. A brief loss of concentration could send your entire crew into the water.
Don’t Operate a Boat Recklessly
Always operate your boat sensibly. When the lake is crowded during the summer, traffic density becomes a major factor to consider. You must pay close attention to your surroundings throughout the day.
Most importantly, avoid speeding. Going too fast gives you less time to react to unexpected obstacles. If a crash stems from a boater driving recklessly, they will be held accountable.
To learn more about boating safety on Lake Michigan, feel free to contact Krzak Rundio Law Firm. We have experienced lawyers who can guide you in the right direction if you or someone you love has been injured in a boating accident in Illinois.