DNR encourages all boaters to follow safety tips and regulations

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- If you're ready to hit the open waters with your boat, you might want to check you’re following all boating guidelines.

As boating season gets underway, officials want to remind all new, inexperienced, or day-one boaters on the rules of the water and why they are crucial to a safe trip.

The Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources State Marine Specialist lays out certification you might need to operate a boat or personal watercraft vehicle safely.

They are offering a boat safety education course online to help teach new and experienced boaters alike about current laws and basic survival skills.

For instance, there are some age restrictions on who can operate a boat.

In Indiana, all captains must have a valid state issued driver’s license.

Kids who are 15 and without a license must take and pass a boater education course to set sail.

In Michigan the rules are a little different, you must be born on or after July 1st of 1996 or be at least 25-year-old to operate a boat legally with a required boating safety certificate on board, while those 25 and older just need a valid license.

Those less than 14 years old in Indiana and 12 years old in Michigan may not legally operate a boat in any case.

“I think one of the biggest reasons for some of our most accidents that involve injuries and sometimes death is inexperience, inattentive to your surroundings, or just not being familiar with your vessel and so it takes time. But, once you get the hang of it, you can have a great time,” Perez said.

In 2020, there were 181 boating accidents reported in Michigan, including 33 deaths, 20 drownings and monetary property damages.

The U.S. The Coast Guard also reported that-drowning is the cause of death in 79% of all boating-related deaths worldwide.

Perez says one way to avoid boat-related fatalities and fines is to be informed and prepared in case of an emergency.

Some recommended tips include checking your boat before heading out, carrying a life jacket, flares, and a cell phone or marine radio.

Perez says you can compare the precautions to driving a car, be sober, be attentive and drive safely.

“You get in your car every day, you go to work. You’ve probably just about your whole life. When you think about boating. Usually for most of us, it’s only on weekends to be able to get on that boat and have some fun. And even then, it’s just to go to a spot, anchor, and come back. Or maybe just a little tour around the lake so when you think about how much experience you really have, it’s really not much,” Perez said.

For more information about boat safety tips and the online course you can visit the DNR’s website here.

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