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Your Minnesota Boat Safety Checklist

Minnesota's nickname, the land of 10,000 lakes, is actually an underestimate. In fact, you'll find 11,842 lakes here. If you enjoy boating, you'll never run out of new lakes to explore in Minnesota.

But before you head out on the water, make sure you're aware of important Minnesota boat safety rules and regulations. Follow these safety tips before you set out to avoid accident or injury.

1. Know Water Rules

Just as you must follow driving rules when you drive, you must follow important local boating rules, like the following:

  • Pay attention to restrictions for each body of water. Restrictions may specify type of watercraft that can operate there and which hours you can boat.
  • Do not drink alcohol while driving a boat.
  • Don't boat near marked swimming areas.
  • Don't drive in a way that could damage property or hurt people.
  • If someone is water skiing, tubing or wakeboarding behind the boat, have someone on the boat watch them at all times.

2. Know Life Jacket Requirements

Life jackets shouldn't just be an afterthought-they may save your life. In fact, they are legally required. Remember these Minnesota life jacket laws:

  • All children under 10 years of age must wear a life jacket.
  • Babies under 6 months are too small for life jackets to be effective; do not take them boating.
  • On personal watercraft, all drivers and passengers must wear a life jacket.
  • On canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and other watercraft, you must carry a life jacket for each person.
  • On boats over 16 feet long, carry a throwable life preserver.

Make sure your life jackets' design meets U.S. Coast Guard approval-check the labels before you buy them. Also, check that the life jackets are in good condition and store them somewhere where everyone on the boat can access them.

3. Know Safe Boating Practices

Before you take your craft on the water, make sure you know how to safely navigate the waters, especially with other boats around. Consider taking a boating safety course before you drive a new boat. Some of the most important boating practices include:

  • Right-of-Way: Nonmotorized craft have right-of-way over motorized craft. However, large commercial vessels and emergency craft have right-of-way over all other craft.
  • Approaching: When you and another boat approach each other, move to the right to avoid a crash.
  • Passing: If another boat is passing you, maintain your current speed and course. When you pass another boat, stay far away from it.

4. Know How to Prevent an Accident or Emergency

To avoid accidents, make sure you are fully trained in safe boating practices. Before you head out on the water, let someone know where you're going and what time you'll return.

Follow these guidelines to prevent common boating emergencies.

  • Getting Hit By the Propeller: If people are swimming near your boat, turn off the motor. If someone in the water needs to enter the boat, don't back up-go around in a circle to reach them.
  • Capsizing: Check the weather and water conditions before setting out. Don't bring a large load on your boat, and make sure each side of the boat has an equal weight.
  • Falling Overboard: Avoid sudden turns or speed changes. Don't allow passengers to sit on the bow, transom, or gunwales. Do not let go of the steering wheel while the boat is in motion, or it could swerve sharply and throw you from the boat.

5. Know What to Do If an Accident Occurs

If someone gets injured in a boating accident, or if your property becomes damaged, follow these steps:

  • Help those in need, but not in a way that would risk your life.
  • Call 911.
  • Exchange information with others in the accident.
  • Report the accident to the county sheriff.

A boating accident can cause devastating injuries. If you were injured in a boating accident, talk to a personal injury lawyer to get compensation.

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