Gov. JB Pritzker has signed a bill into law that will require life rings to be placed along Lake Michigan in Illinois in an effort to prevent drownings.
House Bill 4165, also called the Lake Michigan Rescue Equipment Act, was filed in October by Illinois Rep. Kelly Cassidy.
The bill states that the owner of a pier or drop-off on Lake Michigan will be required to install public rescue equipment, including life ring buoys, on each of the owner’s piers and drop-offs.
That includes beaches and other access points.
The bill also states public rescue equipment should be installed in all high-incident drowning areas.
Local governments that own a pier or drop-off on Lake Michigan would in addition be required to track both fatal and non-fatal drownings and report them to the health department.
Pritzker signed the bill into law on Thursday, his office said.
“The stories of recent drownings on Lake Michigan are both tragic and preventable,” Pritzker said.
“This law will protect countless families from experiencing those same terrible losses and ensure a safer Lake Michigan for the thousands of Illinoisans who enjoy it every year,” he added.
The Lake Michigan Rescue Equipment Act was proposed following the death of 19-year-old Miguel Cisneros, who drowned in Lake Michigan in August 2021.
Cisneros’ family and activists in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago advocated for increased water safety measures after his death and several other incidents in recent years.
2020 was one of the deadliest summers on Lake Michigan in recent years with 56 drowning deaths recorded.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy group, cites Lake Michigan as the Great Lake with the highest rate of drownings.
“This is great progress toward a safer Lake Michigan shoreline, with so many more life rings becoming available,” said Jamie Racklyeft, Executive Director, Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium.
“This successful bill can now serve as a template for other Great Lakes states, counties, communities, and parks interested in ways to keep their residents and visitors safer around the water,” Racklyeft said.