MADISON, WI - Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, National Safe Boating Week is May 19-25 and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources joins boating safety advocates who have teamed up to promote safe and responsible boating, including voluntary, consistent life jacket wear each time boaters are on the water.
"What looks like a perfect day for boating can quickly become hazardous if you end up in the water," DNR Chief Warden Todd Schaller said. "Always wear a life jacket, it is the best decision you can make for your safety while enjoying a day out on the water."
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2016, and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. And the Wisconsin stats mirror this tragic loss of life.
DNR officials say this is the week to start the habit of donning that life jacket for every boat ride. And if you already are a dedicated life jacket wearer, encourage your friends and family members to follow your lead. Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car. By the time you realize you need it, it's too late to put it on.
Schaller says it's the preventable death that haunts survivors. That's what National Safe Boating Week is all about - making the life-saving habit of putting on a life jacket every time you board a boat.
"Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket - and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too - before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock," Schaller said. "The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat's side for whatever reason is unrealistic."
National Safe Boating Week is the last full week before the Memorial Day weekend. This weekend typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. Wisconsin is well known to the boating community, thanks to its 15,000 lakes and 84,000 river miles enjoyed by nearly one million state boaters and thousands of visiting tourists.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin laws require vessels under 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, more popularly known as a life jacket, for each person on board.
"This also covers canoeists and kayakers," Capt. April Dombrowski of the DNR Recreational Safety and Outdoor Skills Section said. "Each must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board."
Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV - or throw-able - PFD for the boat.
In order to be an acceptable, each PFD must meet these recommendations:
* Be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
* Be in good condition with no tears, rips, broken straps or snaps. * Use a squeeze test on kapok PFDs to check for punctures in the inner plastic liner.
* Be the right size for the intended wearer.
* Be readily accessible, which means it may not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or under other equipment.
PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to also protect the wearer from cold water.
"No matter which PFD you choose, make sure you get the one that's right for what you plan to do, what type of vessel you are going to use and the anticipated weather conditions," Schaller says. "Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy."
National Safe Boating Week also is a good time to review other important safety items for boaters. These include:
* Complete a Safe Boating Course.
* Equip and inspect your boat before hitting the water.
* Make sure you travel at the safe speed for your water conditions and surroundings - and that includes other vessels on the water around you.
* Help other boaters in distress.
* Stay sober and wait until safely back at home to have any alcoholic beverages.
"Mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Schaller said.
Find more information about boat safety classes, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "boat," and to view the different types of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, search "PFD."
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR