Five Facts About Illinois Boating Laws And Teens
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:
If requirements are met, children can operate motor boats in Illinois.
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:
- Children at least age 10, less than age 12 – The child may operate the boat only if the child is accompanied by and under the direct control of a parent, guardian or a person age 18 or older who has been designated by the parent or guardian.
- Children at least age 12, less than age 18 – The child may operate the boat if the above parent/guardian/designee requirement is met or if the child has a Boating Safety Certificate issued by:
- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
- Another state or Canadian province
- S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
- S. Power Squadron.
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 major change in Illinois boating law will be in effect by next summer.
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:
- Children at least age 10, less than age 12 – The child must be “under the direct on-board supervision” of a parent, guardian or designee who is age 18 or older and has a valid Boating Safety Certificate.
- Teens at least age 12, less than age 18 – The teen may operate the boat if the above requirement is met or if the child has a valid Boating Safety Certificate.
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.
You can take a Illinois boating safety class in-person or online.
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:
- In-person – The course may last a day or be strung out over a series of days (typically on weekends). You can go here for a list of classes by county or call (800) 832-2599 for more information.
- Online – The course can be taken at a pace that fits the child’s schedule. Two online providers are Boat-Ed.com and boaterexam.com.
Regardless of whether the class is taken in-person or online, the child must pass a final exam in order to receive a certificate.
Allowing a child to drink on a boat is illegal.
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.
If a violation of Illinois boating law results in injury or death to another person, it could result in liability in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit for the parent.
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:
- Negligence per se – Liability is based on the fact that the parent violated a law that exists to protect other boaters, swimmers, anglers and others enjoying Illinois lakes, such as laws that require a child to have proper supervision or training to operate a boat. The parent’s negligence is established by the mere violation of the law.
- Negligent entrustment – Liability is based on the fact that the parent allowed a boat to be operated by a child who lacked the competency to do so. Allowing a child to operate a boat without the supervision or certification mandated by Illinois law would be an example of negligent entrustment.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident in Illinois that was caused by a child boat operator, make sure to protect your legal rights by contacting the attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. We can provide a free, immediate consultation.