DNR Urges Boating Safety as Accidents Increase
Although the last few weeks have felt like summer, today actually marks the first day of the season. With many taking to the water to cool down, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeing an increase in boating accidents.
With those accidents taking people’s lives, safety is a priority. The people who’ve drowned so far this season span the age, gender, and swimming ability spectrum. The DNR recommends taking the following safety measures while out on the water:
- Wear a life jacket. All children, and adults should wear a life jacket anytime they’re around the water. Each year even adults who are good swimmers go under the water and never resurface. Life jackets must be worn by kids under 10 years of age.
- Make sure your boat is equipped with everything it needs if something were to happen. Ensure it has working lights and a working fire extinguisher, and if your boat is 16 feet or greater in length, make sure it has a throwable flotation device.
- Avoid alcohol. Its effects are magnified on the water and the consequences can be deadly. About 40% of boating fatalities include alcohol. Drinking while boating carries the same penalties as drinking while driving, so make sure you have a designated driver or leave alcohol on shore.
- Designate a “water watcher.” This person puts down their cell phone or other distractions and focuses only on watching the water to ensure everyone is safe.
- Wade feet-first into the water to avoid jumping into an area where the current, depth and other conditions are unknown.
- Constantly supervise children while they’re in or near the water. Looking away even for a moment is enough time for tragedy to strike. Drowning often doesn’t involve yelling, screaming and waving of the arms. Rather, it often occurs silently.
- Swim only in designated swimming areas.
- Check the forecast before going boating.
The DNR also says everyone should take at least one boating safety course. Children 12 or 13 have to take it before they drive a boat unless they have adult supervision.