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DNR partners with McDonald’s of Michigan for summer-long safe boating campaign

Officers and children on boat

Just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and McDonald’s of Michigan are teaming up again to increase awareness about the importance of boater safety and wearing a life jacket.

It’s also National Safe Boating Week (May 21-27), a week devoted to promoting responsible boating and encouraging boaters to always wear life jackets while on the water.

From Memorial Day weekend through the Labor Day holiday, conservation officers will pass out vouchers to youth and teen boaters who are observed appropriately wearing a life jacket while actively boating. The vouchers are valid for a free ice cream cone or apple slice package at participating McDonald’s of Michigan locations.

“It was great seeing kids (and their parents) get so excited, and have a positive law enforcement interaction, last year when our officers rewarded them for being safe on the water,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator and recreational safety, education and enforcement supervisor with the DNR. “A fun day of boating begins with safety. A tasty treat on the way home is a great way to end the day. We hope parents will use this as an opportunity to discuss the importance of boating safety with their kids.”

In 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard reported drowning as the cause of death in 75% of national boating-related fatalities. Statistics specific to Michigan for the same year include:

  • 159 boating accidents.
  • 29 deaths involved in boating accidents.
  • More than $2,204,000 in damage.

Boating 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 drownings.

If you plan to operate a boat in Michigan – and you were born after June 30, 1996 – you need a boating safety certificate. If you were born after Dec. 31, 1978, and plan to operate a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski, you also need 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.

Wanless encourages everyone, before 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 to make sure you’re boating safely now can prevent potential problems later,” Wanless said. “Accidents can happen at any time and weather can quickly affect water conditions on inland waters and the Great Lakes. 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.”

McDonald’s coupons are valid at participating McDonald’s of Michigan locations. Learn more about boating opportunities, safety information and other resources at

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows.

Boating: Conservation Officers Thomas Jaakkola (left) and Mike Drexler (right) gave vouchers for free McDonald’s treats to two children who were spotted wearing life jackets while boating on Bruin Lake, located in Washtenaw County, during September 2021.