When the summer heat becomes a problem, a day on the water is the best solution. Residents of Wisconsin are known for their love of lake days and summer boating trips. With so many beautiful bodies of water scattered across the state, you can always find somewhere to cool off.
However, floating in the middle of Minocqua Lake isn’t exactly without risk. Boating, like driving, comes with many rules and risks. We hope you never get into a boating accident. But if you do, we want you to know how to handle it.
Here are some common boating questions and problems. We do our best to clear the air about boating in Wisconsin because we understand how important this pastime is for many families in the area.
Common Wisconsin Boating Questions
1. How old do I have to be to drive a boat in Wisconsin?
Anyone born in Wisconsin before January 1, 1989, is welcome to drive a boat. They don’t need to take a course or receive a formal certificate or license. Their age alone qualifies them to safely operate a boat or personal watercraft.
2. Do I need a license to drive a boat?
If you were born before the year 1989, then you don’t need a boating license at all. If you were born after 1989 and over the age of 10, then you can drive a boat without a license if a parent or guardian is also onboard. Anyone over the age of 12 needs a certificate proving they passed a boating safety course in order to operate a boat legally.
3. Do I need to wear a life jacket when I’m on a boat?
If you are under the age of 13, federal law requires you to wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when out on open water. Additionally, there must always be enough life jackets for every single person on the water vessel (even kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats). On boats larger than 16 feet, there must also be a USCG-approved throwable floatation device.
4. Am I allowed to drink alcoholic beverages while on a boat in Wisconsin?
It is absolutely a crime to drive a boat while drunk in Wisconsin. You will be treated much like you would by normal police if you’re caught boating under the influence (BUI). It’s much less common than a typical DUI but just as unlawful. We strongly recommend against any mixing of alcohol and boating.
5. What happens to people who are caught boating under the influence?
People charged with a BUI will be fined and possibly jailed. It’s a serious offense that puts many people’s lives in jeopardy. Any other substance abuse is also illegal both while driving or boating.
6. Who is at fault in a boating accident?
Typically, the person who was driving the boat at the time of the accident is at fault. This is not always the case though, as every situation can be different. Sometimes, like if the driver is also a minor, then the boat’s owner will be at fault for the accident.
Common Wisconsin Boating Problems
1. Driving the Boat Recklessly
This includes any behavior that jeopardizes the life, limb, or property of anyone else.
For example …
- Cutting across the path of any boat that is towing a person on a tube, skis, board, etc.
- Operating the vessel in prohibited waters or designated swimming areas.
- Attempting to weave through high traffic areas and anchored boats.
- Driving the boat in a manner that creates dangerous waves for others.
- Intentionally disturbing the wildlife around you with your boat.
2. Driving the Boat with People Not Safely Inside
This includes driving the boat while people are sitting on the gunwales, tops of seats, or the decking over the bow. Always make sure everyone is sitting securely in their seats before in motion.
3. Overloading the Boat
Overloading is when you load the boat beyond its own capacity as specified by the vessel manufacturer. You should never try and squeeze more people into the boat than is strictly stated on the capacity plate.
4. Overpowering the Boat
Overpowering the boat is when you equip the boat to propel beyond its safe power capacity. It’s against the law to manufacture, sell, or install any equipment that’s intended to make a boat go faster than its supposed to.
5. Driving Too Fast or Too Close
It’s illegal to not maintain proper speed and distance while on the water. This means you cannot exceed posted speed limits for the specific body of water you’re on. This also means you cannot get too close to other boats on the water than is reasonably safe.
This also includes boating too close to the shore or exceeding a “slow, no wake” speed while within 100 feet of shores, docks, rafts, and piers.
6. Operating the Boat Under Unsafe Conditions
Law enforcement can order you to immediately correct whatever unsafe condition you are operating under or have you escorted back to a dock for punishment.
Unsafe conditions include …
- Overloaded or overpowered boat.
- Not enough life jackets on board.
- The boat lacks adequate ventilation and navigation systems.
- Fuel is leaking from the boat.
Wisconsin Boating Accident Protocol
If you are involved in a Wisconsin boating accident that results in death, injury, or damage over $2000, then you must follow these steps:
- Stop your boat immediately.
- Help anyone who was injured or is in danger.
- Call local law enforcement.
- Submit a written report to the DNR.
- Write down your name, address, and boater’s identification number and give to anyone involved in the acciden.t
Call a Personal Injury Attorney Today
Have you or a loved one had an injury as a result of a Wisconsin boating accident, or any other accident for that matter?
Look no further. If you need legal representation, call Domnitz & Domnitz today. We’re an experienced team of personal injury lawyers dedicated to helping you win your case as quickly as possible.
We’ll work with you to get you the coverage and support you need, so you can get back to focusing on your recovery. If you’re in the Milwaukee area, contact us today, and let’s start this journey together.