Wear a life vest, get a free ice cream

McDonald's partners with DNR to improve boating safety

Photo of Angela Mulka
Conservation officers Thomas Jaakkola (left) and Mike Drexler (right) gave vouchers for free McDonald’s treats to two children who were spotted wearing life jackets while boating on Bruin Lake, located in Washtenaw County, in September 2021.

Conservation officers Thomas Jaakkola (left) and Mike Drexler (right) gave vouchers for free McDonald’s treats to two children who were spotted wearing life jackets while boating on Bruin Lake, located in Washtenaw County, in September 2021.

Photo provided/MI Dept. of Natural Resources

From Memorial Day weekend through the Labor Day holiday, conservation officers plan to pass out vouchers for a free ice cream cone to youth and teen boaters who are seen appropriately wearing a life jacket while boating. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced it was partnering with McDonald's of Michigan again to increase awareness about the importance of wearing a life jacket by handing out free ice cream cone vouchers in a press release on Thursday.

"It was great seeing kids (and their parents) get so excited, and have a positive law enforcement interaction, last year when our officers rewarded them for being safe on the water," Lt. Tom Wanless, boating law administrator and recreational safety, education and enforcement supervisor for the DNR said in the release. "A fun day of boating begins with safety. A tasty treat on the way home is a great way to end the day. We hope parents will use this as an opportunity to discuss the importance of boating safety with their kids."

The vouchers are valid for a free ice cream cone or apple slice package at participating McDonald's of Michigan locations.

Additionally, President Joe Biden declared this week, May 21-27, National Safe Boating Week.

Boating with an operator who has completed an approved boating safety course and wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket are two ways to reduce the risk of recreational boating accidents and drownings, according to the DNR.

"Accidents can happen at any time and weather can quickly affect water conditions on inland waters and the Great Lakes," Wanless said in the release. "Familiarizing yourself and your fellow boaters with valuable safety tips and equipment can mean the difference between a great day on the water and a needlessly tragic outcome."

In 2020, three-quarters of boating deaths were drownings, and nearly seven out of every eight drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Statistics specific to Michigan for the same year include:

  • 159 boating accidents.
  • 29 deaths were involved in boating accidents.
  • More than $2,204,000 in damage.

If you plan to operate a boat in Michigan – and you were born after June 30, 1996 – you need a boating safety certificate.

If you were born after Dec. 31, 1978, and plan to operate a personal watercraft, like a jet ski, you also need a valid boater education safety certificate.

The DNR offers boating safety education as an online and traditional classroom course to teach new and experienced boaters about current laws and basic survival skills.

Learn more about boating opportunities and safety information at Michigan.gov/Boating.