Warmer weather has finally arrived in Michigan, and that means that summer is right around the corner! Michigan has more registered boats than any other state – over 1 million – and the longest freshwater shoreline in the world. And all of those boats and water mean heavy traffic on our lakes and waterways during the summer months. To get you ready for the season, here is a quick boating law refresher.
Registration: All vessels except rowboats less than 16 feet in length and non-motorized canoes or kayaks must have a “Certificate of Number” (registration) and validation decals from the State of Michigan (available through the Secretary of State’s office) to operate on Michigan’s public waters. See the Secretary of State website for details regarding proper display of the numbers on your vessel.
New! Blood Alcohol Content Limit: The legal blood alcohol content limit in Michigan for those operating a boat was reduced to .08 just a few weeks ago and now matches the same limit for operating a motor vehicle.
Equipment: All vessels must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets, the quantity and type of which are dictated by the length of your vessel and number of people on board and/or being towed. Life jackets must be in good condition, the proper size for the intended wearer and readily accessible. Boats may also be required to be equipped with fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, navigation lights or other safety equipment. See The Official Michigan Boater Safety Handbook (link below) for information on these requirements.
Enforcement: Boating laws in Michigan may be enforced by officers of the law enforcement division of the Department of Natural Resources, county sheriff’s departments, U. S. Coast Guard and any other authorized law enforcement agency. In the event that an operator has received a visual or audible signal from a law enforcement officer, the operator must bring his or her vessel to a stop. Officers have the right to stop and board vessels in order to check for compliance with federal and state laws. Boaters involved in boating accidents must stop their vessel immediately at the scene of the accident, assist anyone injured or in danger unless doing so would endanger his or her own passengers, and provide in writing his or her name, address and vessel identification to anyone injured and to the owner of any property damaged by the accident.
Please be aware that regulation of boating in Michigan is extensive and should be carefully reviewed prior to operating any vessel on Michigan waterways. The Official Michigan Boater Safety Handbook contains a comprehensive listing of Michigan boating regulations; you can also subscribe to boating updates from the Michigan DNR. Anchors away!