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Boating safety

Important safety tips

Drowning is the cause of death in 75%* of boating-related fatalities.

Appropriately wearing the correct fitting life jacket and riding with an operator who has successfully completed an accredited boater safety education program reduces the risk of recreational boating accidents and drowning. Where instruction was known, 74%* of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

In 2022, the top five contributing factors* in boating accidents were:

  • Operator inattention.
  • Improper lookout.
  • Operator inexperience.
  • Excessive speed.
  • Machinery failure.

Wear a life jacket

  • Accidents happen, be prepared. Life jackets float - you don't.
  • Of people who drowned in a boating-related fatality, 85% were not wearing a life jacket.

Learn life jacket types and laws »

Boat sober

  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 16%* of deaths.
  • Alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.

Check your boat before going out on the water

  • Make sure the boat is properly equipped and equipment is in good working condition.
  • In addition to legally required equipment such as life jackets and fire extinguishers, always carry a first-aid kit, nautical charts and an anchor.
  • Make sure navigation lights work properly.
  • Ensure the cabin of your vessel has appropriate ventilation to prevent carbon dioxide poisoning.

Have a float plan

Inform someone who is not boating with you about the details of your trip, including:

  • Where you will be boating and the route you plan to travel.
  • How long you will be gone.
  • When you plan to return.
  • Schedule check-in times.
  • Phone numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in case you don't return on time.

Stay alert

  • Watch for other boats, swimmers, skiers and objects in the water. This is especially true when operating in crowded waterways, at night and when visibility is restricted.
  • Be aware of commercial fishing nets and buoys. Orange flagging may indicate a net is located in the water. Nets can also break away and float at the surface of the water, causing entanglements with boats.

Carry a cell phone or marine radio

Be prepared to call for help if:

  • You are involved in or witness an accident.
  • Your boat or the boat of another becomes disabled.
  • You need medical assistance.

*Data source: 2022 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics

U.S. Coast Guard accident statistics »

life jacket with "Wear It Michigan"

Additional safety info

boating safety certificate

Boating safety certificate

Boaters born after June 30, 1996 and most personal watercraft operators must have a boating safety certificate.


Electric shock drowning

Did you know you're at risk by entering the water near a boat or dock powered by electricity.

water safety

Great Lakes water safety

Rip currents, high waves and other dangerous currents and wave conditions can occur in the Great Lakes.

rules and regulations

Rules and regulations

It's your responsibility to know the rules and regulations before you go boating.