As a parent who enjoys boating on Lake Michigan, the Chain O’Lakes or other Illinois waters, you want to pass on your love of this activity to your son or daughter.
As you do, make sure both you and your child comply with Illinois boating regulations. After all, these laws are ultimately aimed at preventing tragic boating accidents. They are meant to protect you, your child and others on the lake.
In particular, here are five important things you should know about young boaters and Illinois law:
Under the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act, a child under age 10 cannot operate a motor boat in our state – period. There are no exceptions to this rule.
However, children ages 10 to 18 can operate a motor boat (or a boat with over 10 horse power) as long as certain requirements are met. Those requirements are:
The child must carry this certificate with him or her aboard the boat at all times. If the child is pulled over by an Illinois Conservation Police officer and does not have the certificate, the child can be charged with a petty offense.
If a parent or guardian knowingly allows a child to violate this law, the parent or guardian could be charged with a petty offense as well.
A new law takes effect on January 1, 2016, which will have a major impact on boating in Illinois during next summer’s boating season.
Under the law, no person born on or after January 1, 1998, can operate a boat over 10 horse power unless he or she has a valid Boating Safety Certificate issued by the IDNR or by “an entity or organization recognized and approved” by the IDNR.
For child boaters, the law will require:
Additionally, anyone renting a boat must receive “abbreviated operating and safety instruction covering core boat safety rules” unless he or she has a safety certificate.
In addition to the legal requirement, it simply makes good sense to have your child go through a boating safety class and earn his or her Boating Safety Certificate.
As the IDNR explains, the course involves a minimum of eight hours of instruction and covers a variety of important topics, including safety, equipment, navigation, registration and titling of a boat, emergency steps and Illinois boating laws.
A child can take the class:
Regardless of whether the class is taken in-person or online, the child must pass a final exam in order to receive a certificate.
It’s important to note that another new law makes it illegal for any parent or guardian to give alcohol to minors on private property, including a boat. If a parent or guardian violates this law, they face a $2,500 fine and could go to jail for as long as one year.
In addition to facing criminal penalties, a parent who allows a child to operate a motor boat in violation of Illinois boating laws could face liability if the child causes an accident that results in the injury or death of another person.
As the most recent annual statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) indicate, age and lack of experience can be significant factors in boating crashes. The USCG reports that 18 deaths and 193 injuries occurred in 2014 among boat operators age 18 or younger. Among boat operators with under 10 hours of experience, there were 69 deaths and 310 injuries.
A parent’s liability in a boating accident involving a child boat operator could be based on many different theories, including: