Boating Safety Education is key to a safe and fun summer on the water

–  Nicki Polan, Executive Director, Michigan Boating Industries Association

Spring is here and that means boat launching is right around the corner. It’s time to start planning for a summer filled with fun. Make sure that your plans include boater education for yourself if you are new to lakefront living, and any new boaters in your family.

Generally, when looking at the statistics, Michigan’s boaters are very safe.  We are third largest in boat registrations in the country, yet we have what is considered a comparatively low number of boating accidents and fatalities according to the National Association of States Boating Law Advisors (NASBLA).

Education is the key to safety.  In 2012, a law went into effect that makes boater’s safety training a requirement in Michigan for all motorboat operators born after July 1, 1996.  This is in addition to the safety education requirement for those operating PWCs that were born after December 1, 1978.  These combined, over time, put Michigan in the mandatory education category, and with these education requirements our safety record will only get better.

Other important points to teach our new boaters include: 1) The best fuel for your boat contains no Ethanol (E0) and often referred to as recreation fuel, 2) Don’t let friends without the proper education operate your family’s boat or personal watercraft, not only is it dangerous, but also puts your family at risk, and 3) watch your wake and share the lake to avoid upsetting other lake users and neighbors. The general rules are to keep your music down, avoid repeated passes, and stay 100 feet from other boaters, docks, shoreline and everything else.

Many organizations offer boating safety classes including your county marine sheriffs, the MI DNR, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the U.S. Power Squadron. These classes will help boaters understand the rules of the water, how to operate safely, how to identify diver buoys, and so much more.

Just as education is our friend, distractions are our nemesis.  Most boating accidents are caused by distractions, much like most automobile accidents. When operating a boat, stay focused on the water to assure you see all swimmers, persons in tow, and other boaters.

Whether you are required to take a class or not, boater education is sure to enhance your boating experience. It can also bring you a discount on your boat insurance, and peace of mind.

Take a look at www.michigan.gov/DNR – including a link to Boat Ed, the official provider of Michigan’s boating safety course.  Even if you have been boating for 30 years, you might be surprised what you don’t know.

Happy Boating!