Lake Michigan is a popular summer haven for residents of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Although Lake Michigan is a place of relaxation and recreation for many, it can also be dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions while boating. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys offer these Lake Michigan boating safety tips for first-time visitors and seasoned boaters alike.
Lake Michigan Boating Safety
While boating on Lake Michigan can be fun, there are also a variety of risks to be mindful of every time you get in the water. Preparing for the unexpected can go a long way towards preventing boating accidents.
Bring the Proper Safety Gear
The boating equipment you need may vary depending on what kind of boat you have, but there are some things every boat on Lake Michigan should have aboard. These include:
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs): There should be one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved PFD for every person onboard your water vessel. These should be in good condition, readily accessible, and properly sized. Note that children under the age of 13 are required to wear a PFD at all times on a water vessel if the boat is less than 26 feet in length. Even if you know how to swim, a fall overboard could easily lead to a head injury that could incapacitate you. Ideally, all passengers should wear a PFD while on board.
- Fire Extinguisher: If your boat is equipped with an internal combustion engine, you must have a USCG-approved fire extinguisher on board to prevent possible fires and burn injuries.
- Navigation Lights: Power-driven vessels under 65.6 feet long require red and green sidelights and an all-around white light.
- Sound-Producing Devices: Motorized vessels must be equipped with a hand, mouth, or power-operated whistle or sound-producing device that can be heard from half a mile away.
- Visual Distress Signals: Recreational vessels should also be equipped with a visual distress signal such as hand-held flares or an electric distress light.
Obey Illinois Boating Laws
Just like driving on a highway, the laws that pertain to operating any type of watercraft on Lake Michigan can result in citations, tickets, and in severe cases, arrests. In Illinois specifically, it is illegal to operate any watercraft in a reckless manner that could endanger your life or the lives of others. Here are some key laws to remember in addition to practicing Lake Michigan boating safety:
- Careless Operation: Exceeding reasonable speeds or otherwise acting in a negligent manner while on a vessel which ultimately causes danger or injury to property or other people.
- Reckless Operation: Operating a vessel in any manner which causes danger to life, limb or property. This may include swerving, weaving your boat through congested traffic, jumping a wake of another vessel extremely close by, or creating hazardous waves or wake conditions.
- Overloading or Overpowering: Loading a vessel beyond capacity, or operating a boat which has been powered beyond the proscribed horsepower limits.
- Operating in Restricted Areas: Not maintaining proper speed and following distance when operating a vessel, especially when in clearly marked swimming zones, within 150 feet of a launching ramp, or exceeding “slow, no wake speed” in designated areas.
- Boating Under the Influence: Similar to driving under the influence, boating under the influence is both dangerous and illegal.
Mind the Wind (and the Waves)
Chicago is known as the Windy City for a reason. The winds that howl through the streets of Chicago also sweep across the surface of Lake Michigan. Only individuals who have experience with handling choppy waves should be in control of sailboats and other watercraft. Slow down and tack into choppy waves rather than trying to face them head-on.
Injured in a Boating Accident on Lake Michigan?
You may follow every Lake Michigan boating safety tip in the book, but you can’t control the actions of others. If you are the victim of a boating crash, you need an experienced Chicago boat crash lawyer on your side. Negligent or reckless parties should be held financially responsible for their actions, including paying for your medical bills, lost wages, and you and your family’s pain and suffering.
Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys offers free consults, and we don’t charge a fee unless we win your case. Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer today by calling 708-222-2222. Online agents are standing by to answer any questions you may have via LiveChat. You can also send us the details of your accident using this form to be reviewed by a member of our team.