Prevent tragedy during boating season

With boating season around the corner, Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages boaters to make their pastime more enjoyable by following important safety tips. Saturday, May 20, marks the start of National Safe Boating Week and the DNR wants all Michigan residents and visitors to have fun while exercising caution and obeying the law.

“Michigan is made for boating,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator with the DNR. “But being on the water carries responsibilities. Following the law and taking simple precautions will help ensure that your boating experience goes as planned. You have a responsibility to yourself, your passengers and fellow boaters to be as safe as possible.”

The DNR encourages boaters to:

– Wear a life jacket. About 85 percent of drownings resulting from boating accidents in the U.S. are due to people not wearing life jackets. In Michigan, anyone under the age of 6 must wear a life jacket when on the open deck of any vessel, but wearing a personal flotation device is recommended for everyone.

– Avoid drinking alcohol. Nationally, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents where the primary cause was known.

– Make sure the boat is properly equipped and equipment is in good working order. In addition to legally required equipment, such as life jackets and fire extinguishers, always carry a first-aid kit, nautical charts and an anchor. Make sure navigation lights work properly.

– File a float plan. Always inform family or friends about the details of your trip. Let them know when to expect you back. Give them phone numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in case you don’t return on time.

– Stay alert. Watch for other boats, swimmers, skiers and objects in the water. This is especially true when operating in crowded waterways, at night and when visibility is restricted.

– Carry a marine radio or cell phone. Be prepared to call for help if you are involved in or witness an accident, your boat or the boat of another becomes disabled or you need medical assistance. Program the numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in your cell phone. Make sure your phone is fully charged but be aware that there often are coverage gaps on the water.

The DNR also recommends a boating safety course for anyone who plans to use a boat or personal watercraft.

Visit www.michigan.gov/boating for more information on boating safety and who is required to take a safety class.

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