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How safe are you on Michigan's waterways?

In addition to Lake Michigan, our state has many smaller lakes and waterways for boaters to enjoy during the summer. But before heading out on a day cruise, make sure that you are savvy about safety.

It only takes a moment to turn a pleasant outing on the water into a terrible tragedy. Keep the following safety information in mind whenever you leave port.

Carry personal flotation devices (PFDs) for all passengers

Under state law, all boaters must have aboard a wearable PFD for each passenger on the boat. Additionally, all boats greater than 15 feet in length must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV PFD, e.g., a ring buoy or a seat cushion on board. Remember, too, that anyone in tow behind a boat is also considered under the law to be an onboard passenger.

Kids 6 and under must wear their PFDs while the boat is in motion.

Boating and alcohol

The two don't mix. Boaters who are under the influence of alcohol while at the controls of the boat can face charges of boating while intoxicated (BWI). Boaters with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent can be charged with BWI. But they can face the same charges if they are impaired but their BAC is lower than that threshold.

Learn basic nautical directions

All boaters should bone up on their nautical terminologies and learn how to interpret signs on Michigan waterways. This goes beyond knowing that "port" always means left and "starboard" means right. Your life, and the lives of all others who are aboard, may one day depend on the correct interpretation of navigational symbols.

If you get injured while a passenger on another person's boat, you may be able to file a claim for damages and recoup some of your losses.

Source: BoaterExam.com, "Michigan Boating Safety Requirements," accessed June 08, 2018

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