The lingering cold may keep you only dreaming of days on the lake, but summer will be here soon enough. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources documented 54 boating related injuries and 20 boating related deaths in 2014. As a result, Illinois lawmakers have put into effect a new set of boating laws aimed at safety.
Starting this year, boaters who are towing skiers, tubers, or any other person, must display a bright orange flag from the highest point of the helm. The flag must be able to be seen from all directions and must be continuously displayed.
In addition, and in an effort to curb DUI related boating incidents, a new law allows the seizure and forfeiture of boats used repeatedly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Beginning next year, two additional laws will take effect. First, motorboat drivers born on or after January 1, 1998 will be required to complete a three-hour online boater safety course before being able to drive a motor boat. Second, a valid boating safety certificate will be required before these younger drivers can operate a boat with an engine more than 10 horsepower.
Many boaters have fought changes to boating laws and claim that boating is not the same as driving a vehicle. Boaters are pushing back by proposing their own Boaters Bill of Rights, which would forbid police from boarding boats without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Currently law enforcement may board any boat to conduct safety precaution inspections.
While boating is an activity you can engage in with little knowledge or preparation, remember that violations of boating laws are not excused and can lead to civil and criminal consequences.