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Personal Injury

What Boating Safety Equipment Is Required While on Michigan Lakes?

With the Michigan sunshine and warm weather upon us, it’s a good guess you’ll be visiting the great lakes or inner Michigan lakes soon. Maybe to soak up the sun on the beach, or maybe to take your boat out on the water. Before you do, it’s important to remember what boating safety equipment you need, and how to prevent any accidents.

It’s important to remember that safety equipment is a tool to protect you and those around you. Should anything go wrong, it’s best to be prepared. This equipment can make all the difference between a minor mishap and a trip to the hospital.

Here’s a look at all of the essential boating safety equipment you need to keep on hand this summer.

What Boating Safety Equipment is Required?

When your boat hits the water, you are legally obligated to have the following safety equipment on board:

  • Personal Flotation Devices/Life Jackets (Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, or Type V)
  • One Throwable Flotation Device
  • Navigation Lights
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Ventilation System
  • Backfire Flame Arresters
  • Mufflers
  • Sound-Producing Devices (State Waters: Whistle; Federal Waters: Air Horn)
  • Night Signals
  • Day Signals

Here’s a closer look at some of these essential items.

Life Jackets

You would typically use type I life jackets when cruising, fishing offshore, or racing. You may also use them when you’re boating alone or if you’re driving in stormy conditions. It’s best for open and rough water where rescue may be slow to arrive. Type I offers you the best protection as it keeps your head high above the water. 

Type II life jackets are intended for use near inland water close to shore. So, when you’re cruising, fishing, or sailing. You should wear this type when there are good chances of immediate rescue, as they are not suitable for extended survival in rough water. Type II is more comfortable than Type I, but less buoyant, meaning you would need to tread water in order to keep your head above the water. 

Next, type III life jackets are light jackets that you can wear during supervised activities, including sailing, dinghy races, water skiing, fishing, kayaking, and during personal watercraft (jet ski) operation. Type III is the most comfortable when compared to life jackets I and II, but offers the least protection. You should only wear one when you’re in inland water and when there is a high probability of a quick rescue. 

Type IV life jackets aren’t jackets you wear. They’re actually throwable devices meant to supplement the buoyancy of the person overboard. A Type IV jacket is not intended for unconscious people, non-swimmers, or children, and must be readily available at all times. Type IV preservers can come in a square, ring, horseshoe-style, or a seat cushion, with a minimum buoyancy of 16.5 pounds for the ring and 18 pounds for a cushion.

Lastly, Type V life jackets are uniquely designed for specific purposes. They are modified for certain high-risk activities, including sailboarding, paddling, and whitewater rafting. Type V life jackets inflate when in the water. Please note that some automatically inflate while others may require manual inflation. Only intended for strong swimmers.

Navigation Lights

With the Michigan sunshine and warm weather upon us, it’s a good guess you’ll be visiting the great lakes or inner Michigan lakes soon. Maybe to soak up the sun on the beach, or maybe to take your boat out on the water. Before you do, it’s important to remember what boating safety equipment you need, and how to prevent any accidents.

It’s important to remember that safety equipment is a tool to protect you and those around you. Should anything go wrong, it’s best to be prepared. This equipment can make all the difference between a minor mishap and a trip to the hospital.

Here’s a look at all of the essential boating safety equipment you need to keep on hand this summer.

  • Red & Green Side Lights: Must be visible from one mile away
  • An All-White Round Light or a Masthead Light & Stern Light: All must be visible from two miles away

For unpowered vessels less than 26 feet long, required lights include:

  • Red & Green Side Lights or Masthead Lights (If Practical)
  • One White Light Lantern or Flashlight for Boat Operator (If Option One Is Not Practical)

For powered vessels 26 feet or longer, required lights include:

  • Red & Green Side Lights: Must be visible from at least one mile away
  • A Masthead Light & Stern Light: Must be visible from at least two miles away, and the masthead light must be higher than the stern light

All vessels, when not underway, are required to use a white round light between sunrise and sunset anytime they are anchored to waters in and around the Great Lakes.

Fire Extinguishers

It’s always good to keep fire extinguishers on board. However, you are required to have them under the following conditions:

  • The Boat Has a Permanently Installed Fuel Tank
  • The Boat Has an Inboard Engine
  • The Boat Has a Closed Living Space
  • The Boat Has Compartments With Flammable Materials
  • The Double-Bottom Hulls Are Not Completely Sealed
  • The Double-Bottom Hulls Are Not Completely Filled With Flotation Materials

In April of 2022, the U.S. East Coast Guard introduced new guidelines for fire extinguisher safety. If your boat model is 2018 or newer, then you may need new extinguishers. The fire extinguishers on boats 2018 or newer must be labeled 5-B, 10-B, or 20-B.

With boats modeled anytime before 2018, you may be able to keep your existing extinguisher, as long as it’s labeled B-I or B-II. In both situations, the extinguisher must be less than 12 years old.

When Do You Need Safety Equipment?

As a rule, it’s safe to assume that you always need safety equipment.

Even if you’re taking your boat for a short jaunt, no jaunt is too short to justify skipping any precautions. There are also certain requirements for specific types of safety equipment. For example, life jackets should be worn at all times when the vessel is underway. Additionally, under Michigan law, children under the age of six are always required to wear a USCG-approved Type I or Type II life jacket when the vessel is underway. Certain safety equipment is also required at certain times, including night signals. With that being said, you should always keep your safety equipment on hand just in case.

Boating Safety Equipment Saves Lives

Remember: the safety equipment we’ve mentioned can save lives during a boating accident. Always make sure to keep your equipment on hand, because you never know when smooth sailing will suddenly turn into rough waters.

If your trip to the lake ended in a trip to the hospital because of someone else’s carelessness, our team of boating accident attorneys are here to help. We treat every client with the same care, kindness, and diligence we would give to our own loved ones.

If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, schedule your free consultation today

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