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New Illinois Boating Laws Aimed at Boater Safety

This summer, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed three new laws directed at increasing boating safety and boating accident prevention on Illinois waterways. As of July, state officials have reported 16 boating fatalities on Illinois waterways in 2014. This year’s total of boating fatalities is up two from last year when 14 people were killed and the boating season has not even come to a close yet. The new Illinois boating laws will mandate safety courses, determine new rules for towing occupants on water tubes and enforce new DUI penalties.

New Requirements for Illinois Water Skiers and Tubers

The first new law addresses a requirement for boats towing water skiers or tubers. Illinois SB 2731 amends the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act and requires that operators of a boat towing a person or persons to display red or orange flags on their watercraft. The law says that flags must be orange and the flag must be displayed at the highest point of the area surrounding the boat’s helm. This display will ensure that the flag is visible from all directions.

Mandatory Illinois Boating Safety Certificate

The second new law addresses Illinois boating safety certificate requirements. Illinois SB 3433 provides that beginning January 1, 2016, the Illinois Boating Safety Certificate requirements will apply to any person born on or after January 1, 1998.

This means that anyone born since 1998 will need to complete and pass a boating safety course, which is the boating equivalent of a driver’s education class. Additionally, a certificate will be required in order to operate motorboats that have engines generating more than 10 horsepower. Exemptions to this requirement include persons using an electric motor, operating a motorboat on private property or an individual with an out-of-state boating license equivalent.

Illinois Boating Alcohol Offenses

The third new law aims to crack down on intoxicated boaters on Illinois waterways. Illinois SB 3434 amends the Criminal Code of 2012. The new law will allow for the seizure of boats from intoxicated boaters in certain circumstances, bringing boating laws in line with those for operating a motor vehicle while drunk or otherwise impaired. More specifically, people who are convicted of three boating alcohol offenses or those individuals caught operating a watercraft with revoked licenses could have their boats taken away. The penalty also applies to individuals previously convicted of reckless homicide or accidental death or injury.

Illinois Boater Safety Tips

In addition to adhering to the new Illinois boating laws next summer, The U.S. Coast Guard suggests following general safety tips for further prevention of boating accidents and injuries:

  • Double-check your boat for necessary safety equipment. This includes proper fitting U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets readily available for all occupants of the vessel and weather appropriate clothing. It is also important to carry a basic first aid kit including life saving medications on board, such as antihistamines and aspirin, in the rare event that a passenger has an allergic reaction or even a heart attack while out on the water.
  • Have a reliable way to call for help in an emergency. Be sure to have a marine radio, reliable cellphone in waterproof case or a personal locator beacon on board. Other basic distress equipment such as a whistle or signal mirror can be carried aboard as well.
  • Know and follow the rules of navigation.Familiarizing yourself with the rules of the waterway you frequent can help avoid a collision with other boaters or swimmers. Also, always express caution when navigating near docks and piers.
  • Enroll in a general boating class for the type of vessel you will be using. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 41-5 in Waukegan offers several classes for novice to experienced boaters. Some of the classes offered include, Intro to Boating, Boating Registration, Boating Safety Equipment, Boating Problems, Hunting and Fishing, Trailering, Storing and Protecting Your Boat and Navigation. Check with your town to see what options are available for boater education classes near you.
  • Familiarize yourself with the signs and dangers of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can be a silent and invisible killer while boating. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include eye irritation, headache, nausea and dizziness. In order to protect yourself and passengers, install a carbon monoxide detector on your boat, regardless what type of vessel you operate, and be sure to maintain a fresh circulation of air through and around your boat at all times.
  • Always keep an eye on children. If you are boating with children, be sure to watch them cautiously at all times as it only takes a mere 20 seconds for a child to drown. It is important to note that typically a drowning child or individual is physically unable to call out for help or perform voluntary distress movements such as waving for help or reaching out for a rescuer. Additionally, a drowning victim’s mouth alternately sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water.
  • Lake County Boating Accident Attorneys

    If you or a family member has been injured in a boating accident you should work with a lawyer you can trust. The experienced Lake County personal injury lawyers at Salvi & Maher, L.L.C. offer a free initial consultation to review your injury claim. If we take on your case, our firm covers all costs associated with your case, and we only charge fees when we obtain compensation for you. To set up a free initial consultation, call 847-662-3303 or reach us online.

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