Illinois Boating Safety

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police officers (CPOs) will be increasing their enforcement efforts on Illinois waters this Labor Day weekend, September 4th through the 7th. Illinois Conservation Police will be watching for boaters operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They will also be checking to make sure that proper safety equipment is present on boats, especially personal floatation devices (PFDs) or lifejackets.

Illinois boaters who are caught operating under the influence (OUI) face severe penalties. Under Illinois laws, operating under the influence (OUI) is a Class “A” misdemeanor for the first offense. It is punishable by a maximum of six months to one year in jail and/or up to $2,500 in fines.

According to IDNR Chief of Law Enforcement Rafael Gutierrez,” Accidents and fatalities on Illinois waters usually come down to a couple of things- people not wearing their life jackets or people who operate carelessly or recklessly… We cannot stress enough how important it is to wear your life jacket and to have a designated driver onboard.”

All boaters should take these simple precautions when out on Illinois waters: Always wear a lifejacket or PFD. Eighty percent of lives lost in Illinois boating accidents could have been prevented if the person involved had been wearing a lifejacket. Know your limitations. Don’t go out in your boat in conditions you aren’t comfortable with. Tell someone your plans before you go out. Don’t operate any watercraft if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Take an Illinois Boating Safety Education Course.

Remember, Illinois Department of Natural Resources officers and all other authorized law enforcement officers enforce boating laws. Officers have the authority to stop and board your vessel in order to check for compliance with state and federal laws.

It is illegal to refuse to follow the directive of a person with law enforcement authority. An operator who has received a visual or audible signal from a law enforcement officer must bring his or her vessel to a stop.

Illinois law requires that any vessel operator involved in a boating accident make a written report if the incident results in loss of life or disappearance of a person, or a person is injured, or there is property damage in excess of $500. Boating accidents that result in death or serious injury to any person must be reported to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) within 48 hours of the accident. All other accidents must be reported to the IDNR within 5 days.

Safe boating is the responsibility of anyone operating a vessel on Illinois waters. Please remember to wear your lifejacket, and make sure passengers on your boat are also wearing lifejackets. Don’t operate a boat if you are under the influence of alcohol. Even if you are an experienced boater, consider taking an Illinois Boating Safety Education Course to brush up on your skills.