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5 Michigan Boating Laws You Need To Know

5 Michigan Boating Laws You Need To Know

Is there a legal limit to drinking and boating in Michigan?

I’ve been charged with reckless operation while driving my boat, what does that mean?

One of the best parts about living in Michigan is the number of beautiful lakes that are waiting for us to set sail on them. With the weather getting nicer, you may be thinking that it is about time head for the lake.

However, before you do, make sure you know what Michigan’s boating laws are because last year the U.S. Coast Guard had written the highest number of tickets in just three years for drinking and boating.

Here are 5 Michigan Boating Laws to know

  1. Drinking While Operating
    Editor’s note: For the 2015 changes in Michigan’s law, please see: Michigan Boating Laws and Alcohol Limits 2015.

    The State of Michigan does have a legal blood alcohol level for boaters who are driving. While the legal limit is technically .10%, if you score between a .07% and a .10% and the officer has discretion to considered along with other factors that your are under the influence.

    What kind of penalties do you face if caught drinking and boating? If you a caught you can be charged with a misdemeanor. If you are charged 3 times within 10 years you will be charged a felony. If you are boating and driving and cause “great bodily injury”, you will be charged with a felony.

    According to The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities, if you are driving a boat you are consenting to being tested for drug and alcohol.

  2. Reckless Operation

    Driving recklessly is when you jeopardize the safety or rights of a person or property. Below are a few examples of what this looks like.

    • When the area is crowded and the boater weaves through the traffic.
    • When avoiding a collision, instead of following protocol, the boater veers at the last moment.
    • The boater harasses wildlife with their vessel.
  3. Failure to Regulate Speed

    Yes, even boats have speed limits. It is illegal to operate your vessel as speeds above 55 mile per hour unless you are one mile offshore on the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair.

    If a person on your boat isn’t properly seated in the bow of the vessel, then any speed greater than slow or no wake speed is illegal.

    “Slow, No Wake Speed” as reported by The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities is, “the slowest speed at which it is still possible to maintain steering and which does not create a wake.”

  4. Personal Floatation Devices

    According to the Indiana Natural Resource Commission, one of the ten more violated boating laws on Lake Michigan is not having enough personal floatation devices.

    Each person on board must have access to a personal flotation device. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requires there to be at least one Type I, II, III personal flotation device that is USCG approved. These are wearable and are the right size for the people on board the boat.

    For children under the age of 6, each are required at all times to wear a flotation device while riding on the deck of a vessel.

  5. Register Your Vessel

    The last boating law we are reviewing today is another law that was included in most violated boating laws on Lake Michigan and it’s not having to vessel registered.

    All vessels are required to obtain a Michigan Certificate of Number (which is the registration), as well as a validation decals that allows you to operate your vessel on Michigan’s public waters legally.

    According to the Handbook, there are only three exceptions to this law.

    • Rowboats that are 16 feet long or less that are privately owned.
    • Non-motorized canoes or kayaks that are privately owned.
    • Vessels that are only using Michigan waters for 60 days or less and are registered in another state

For more on Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities, please review the Handbook or sign up to take the Official Boater Safety Education Course. These courses along with the BoaterExam.com are both promoted by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources.

If you are facing a boating related charge in Michigan, please call my office. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney that is fighting for your rights can make all the difference.

248-348-7400 or 586-530-1000

This article was published on: May 14, 2014 and was last modified April 15, 2015