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Be safe on the water this summer

With school almost over, the weather warming up and the upcoming Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, many will begin enjoying Michigan’s more than 11,000 inland lakes and over 36,000 miles of rivers and streams.

National Safe Boating Week is May 18-24. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies to make sure people are safely enjoying the state’s waters. The DNR reminds boaters to keep these safety tips in mind before they float:

– Wear a life jacket – accidents happen

In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that drowning was the cause of death in 76 percent of all boating accident fatalities. Last July, when two people were stranded in Lake Huron after falling off their personal watercraft, their life jackets kept them afloat in the rough water until a conservation officer arrived to help. Take the time now to learn more about Michigan’s life jacket rules.

– Boat sober

Alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

– Stay alert

Be aware of objects and other people – including stationed anglers, swimmers, boaters, kayakers and paddleboarders – in the water. Keep your eyes open for debris, such as commercial fishing nets, which sometimes break free and float at the surface of the water.

– Check your boat before you float

In October, a man was rescued from Lake Gogebic after the steering on his boat became inoperable. He was able to call for help and wore his life jacket until a conservation officer arrived. Make sure your boat is in good operating condition and equipped with the appropriate life jackets, fire extinguisher and first aid equipment before heading onto the water.

– Take a cellphone in a waterproof case or a marine radio

In March, a capsized kayaker on Lake Erie was rescued because he was able to call for help.

– Know how to escape a current

Being aware of the Great Lakes swim risk levels and the beach warning flag system can help swimmers avoid dangerous currents. Understanding how to “flip, float and follow” while swimming can help in case you get stuck in a strong current.

Learn more on the boating safety information webpage at Michigan.gov/Boating.

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