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DNR urges boating safety this holiday weekend and all summer long

May 26, 2021

Ronald McDonald, waving, and DNR conservation officers, all wearing life jackets while on a patrol boat on the waterMichigan's unofficial start to summer - the Memorial Day holiday weekend - is days away. As many Michiganders and visitors prepare for boating fun on state lakes, rivers and streams, the Department of Natural Resources reminds everyone to put safety first.

It's also National Safe Boating Week (May 22-28), a week devoted to elevating the campaign for responsible boating and encouraging boaters to always wear life jackets while on the water.

Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator and recreational safety, education and enforcement supervisor with the DNR, encouraged everyone, before ever leaving shore, to get up to date on boating laws and regulations and ensure that boats and personal watercrafts (such as Jet Skis) - and life jackets and other safety gear - are shipshape.

"Taking time now can prevent potential problems later, because accidents can happen at any time and weather can quickly affect water conditions on inland waters and the Great Lakes," Wanless said. "Familiarizing yourself and your fellow boaters with valuable safety tips and equipment can mean the difference between a great day on the water and a needlessly tragic outcome."

Accident reports submitted to the DNR show that in 2020 there were 181 boating accidents reported in Michigan, including 33 fatalities. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that, nationally, drowning is the cause of death in 79% of all boating-related fatalities.

Riding with an operator who has completed an approved boating safety course and wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket are two ways to reduce the risk of recreational boating accidents and drowning. More safety tips are available on the DNR's boating webpage.

Anyone born after June 30, 1996, must have a boating safety certificate to operate a boat. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1978, who plans to operate a personal watercraft also is required to have a valid boater education safety certificate. The DNR offers boating safety education as an online and traditional classroom course to teach new and experienced boaters about current laws and basic survival skills.

To highlight the importance of life jackets, DNR conservation officers, through a partnership with McDonald's, will be on the lookout this summer for youth appropriately wearing their life jackets. Each child or teen spotted properly wearing a life jacket while on an active vessel could receive a coupon for a free ice cream or apple slices at participating McDonald's locations in Michigan.

Learn more about boating opportunities, safety information and other resources at

Note to editors: An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

  • Life jackets: To highlight the importance of life jackets, DNR conservation officers, in partnership with McDonald's, will be on the lookout this summer for kids and teens appropriately wearing them while on the water. Here, Ronald McDonald, wearing a life jacket alongside DNR conservation officers, waves from a Michigan DNR patrol boat.