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Safety is crucial when getting on and off a boat

People who are nervous about boating often are most afraid about being out on the open water -- and, more specifically, the possibility of going overboard. However, you can also be seriously injured while getting on and off a boat.

Boat owners and operators are responsible for the safety of their passengers from the time they get to the dock to get on the boat (embark) to the time they get off the boat (disembark) and are back on the dock.

If you're going out for a day on one of Michigan's lakes, your boat operator should take a number of precautions to help keep you and other passengers safe while embarking and disembarking. For example:

  • The boat should be securely tied to the dock.
  • Boarding stairs and gangways need to be properly attached to the boat.
  • Passengers should only embark and disembark at designated loading/unloading areas.
  • Passengers should be kept away from any tanks and other equipment while embarking and disembarking.
  • Passengers should be given assistance to avoid falls. Any luggage or heavy items should be brought on the boat for them.
  • Once on the boat, passengers should sit down and keep away from the sides while others are boarding.

It's also a good idea to have your life jacket on before you embark and to keep it on until you're off the boat. Under Michigan law, all vessels are required to have a minimum of one personal flotation device (PFD) for each person who is either on board or being towed (for example, on water skis).

While boat owners should have insurance, if an injury is deemed to be their fault, the insurer may refuse to pay any claims. That means that injured passengers may have to take legal action against the owner directly.

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