Boat Safety on the Lake


Now more than ever before, people are heading to the lake! With so many people on the lake, boat safety is essential to keep everyone safe and avoid disastrous accidents.

The Importance of Boat Safety


Boat safety is a matter of life and death. From April to July 2020, the DNR has reported 15 boating fatalities so far. This number is already significantly higher than 9 fatalities throughout the entire 2019 boating season.


Most of these fatal accidents could have been prevented through proper boating safety including the following examples:

  • The victim who drowned wearing a life jacket that was not properly secured.

  • The kayaking victim who flipped & was not wearing a personal flotation device.

  • The victim who jumped off a moving boat without a life jacket.

The leading cause of fatalities is drowning. According to the DNR, the leading causes of traffic boat accidents include:

  1. Operator inexperience

  2. Inattention

  3. Recklessnes

  4. Speeding

If you are new to owning lake property or visiting a lake, take the time to learn boat safety. Even if you are a seasoned boat owner, it can be beneficial to refresh. It is always better to be safe than sorry!


Safety Preparations Before Boating

Before you take your boat out, make sure you know the laws, rules, and regulations for boating on your lake and in the state of Wisconsin. The Handbook of Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsibilities provided by the Wisconsin DNR is a helpful reference.


Register Your Boat

The Wisconsin DNR requires boating registration for all motorized boats and/or vessels (i.e. motorboat, sailboat, pontoon, jet ski, kayak, etc.). The only exceptions include sailboats less than 12 feet in length not equipped with a motor, sailboards, manually propelled vessels without a motor or sail, and vessels registered in another state that are not used in Wisconsin for 60 consecutive days or more.


Boat Safety Certification

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1989 is required by the DNR to complete a boating safety course to legally operate a motorized boat and/or personal watercraft. Once the boat safety education is completed, you will receive a boater education certificate that can be stored on your boat in the event it is requested by a law enforcement officer.


To enroll in a boat safety class, visit the Wisconsin DNR website. The Wisconsin DNR also encourages a Paddle Sports Safety Course for canoes and kayaks.


Know Your Lake Regulations

Once you have registered your boat and completed a boat safety certification, get to know your local lake ordinances.


The Whitewater Lake Ordinances indicate the following:

  • Slow No Wake

  • From shore to 150 feet

  • All channels

  • Narrow body of water, north end beyond state park

  • Before 9:00 am every morning

  • After 7:00 pm on Friday, Saturday, and holidays

  • Wake permitted Sunday through Thursday from 9:00 am until sunset except legal holidays and the day preceding the holiday

  • Jet ski prohibited within 200 feet of shoreline

  • Water-skiers must travel in counterclockwise direction. There is a maximum of two skiers allowed.


The Rice Lake Ordinances indicate the following:

  • Slow No Wake

  • From shore to 150 feet

  • All channels

  • Before 9:00 am every morning

  • After 7:00 pm on Friday, Saturday, and holidays

  • Wake permitted Sunday through Thursday from 9:00 am until sunset except legal holidays and the day preceding the holiday

  • Jet ski prohibited within 200 feet of shoreline

  • Water-skiers must travel in counterclockwise direction. There is a maximum of two skiers allowed.

Know Your Boat

Every boat owner must know their vessel capacity. If you plan on transporting your boat, you need to know how to safety transport your boat, how to launch your boat safety, and how to load your boat safety back on the trailer. If you have a dock, make sure you know how to properly secure your boat.


Boat Safety Tips

The boat safety education course will provide in-depth knowledge on boat safety. However, there are a few key tips that we’d like to recap here:

  • Buy and maintain the 3 safety equipment essentials.

  • A US Coast Guard-approved life jacket. If your boat is 16 feet or longer, make sure you have a throwable personal flotation device.

  • An fire extinguisher.

  • Functioning boat lights & extra batteries just in case.

  • Be mindful of the weather and get off the water early in the event of bad weather.

  • Open all hatches and run the blower after refueling & before boating. If you smell fumes, do not start the engine.

  • Do not overload your boat and stay within its capacity to avoid capsizing.

  • Ensure all passengers ride inside the gunwales and seatbacks when moving to reduce the risk of someone accidentally falling off the boat.

  • Make sure all passengers have a properly fitted life jacket accessible. And ensure that all children under 13 are wearing a life jacket.

  • Tell someone where you are going & when to expect your return.

  • Do not boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

These safety tips are based on Wisconsin boating laws, which makes the following illegal:

  • Negligent or reckless operation

  • Operating a boat with a person riding on the bow, deck, or gunwale

  • Overloading beyond recommended capacity

  • Overpowering beyond boat’s safe power capacity

  • Improper speed or distance

  • Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Boating Accidents

In the event of the worst-case scenario of a boating accident, know what to do. If a boat operator is involved in a boating accident resulting in death, injury, or damage of property exceeding $2,000 the operator must stop at the scene of the accident, assist anyone injured or in danger from the accident, and give in writing their contact information to anyone injured and/or owner of the damaged property.


The boat operator is required to make a verbal and written report to the DNR whenever a boating accident results in:

  • Death or disappearance of a person

  • Injury to any person

  • Property damage in excess of $2,000

Verbal report must be made immediately to a DNR conservation warden or local law enforcement. A written report, known as the Operator Boating Incident Report, must be submitted to the DNR with 10 days of the accident.


Conclusion

When it comes to boating, an accident can happen so quickly and be devastating. To avoid the worst-case scenario, prepare yourself and your passengers accordingly so that you can have a safe and enjoyable time on the water.


By registering your boat, understanding boat safety, knowing your local lake ordinances, and knowing your boat, you are preparing your family for a safe and enjoyable time on the lake while abiding by the law. Wisconsin conservation wardens, county sheriffs, and municipal police enforce boating laws in Wisconsin.


This post merely serves as a board introduction to boat safety to highlight its importance. However, there are many more details and specifics to learn (i.e. diving and snorkeling safety, discharge of waste or trash, aquatic invasive species, personal watercrafts, skiing, etc.). To learn more, view the Handbook of Wisconsin Boating Laws and Responsibilities provided by the Wisconsin DNR.

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Over 20 years ago, Robert Sivek followed his dream and purchased his lake home on Whitewater Lake. As agent of NextHome, Robert is here to help you live your dream and find your ideal lake home.

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N7681 Ridge Rd.

Whitewater, WI 53190

Robert Sivek

Waterfront Specialist

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Whitewater, WI 53190

262-533-1111

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