Summer Boating Safety Tips

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 at 5:36 am

(Article from Rep. Ann Hraychuck)

Minnesota may be known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but most Wisconsin residents will be taking advantage of the more than 15,000 lakes located right here in the Dairy State.  While Wisconsinites can partake in a great number of summertime water activities, including boating, fishing, sailing and canoeing, with over 635,000 boats registered in Wisconsin and hundreds of thousands visiting from other states, safety must always come first.

First and foremost, it is important to avoid drinking alcohol before or during the operation of a water vehicle.  It is common knowledge that drinking and driving, even on water, is dangerous because the alcohol affects one’s reaction time, balance coordination and overall judgment.  However, many do not know that other external factors, such as sun, glare, vibrations and noise amplify these effects.  According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 35 percent of all boating deaths and 20 percent of all reported accidents in 2008 involved drug or alcohol use.

It is also crucial that people in water vehicles have the proper safety equipment.  This includes having one life jacket onboard for each individual.  The DNR website states that 16 of the 20 people killed while boating last year were not wearing life jackets.  In addition to life jackets, other safety items such as fire extinguishers, boat lights, flares, maps and first aid kits should also be onboard and functional.

Boating safety classes are also recommended for all boat owners and people who intend on operating motorized water vehicles.  In fact, all people born after 1988 who intend on operating a motor boat are required to take a boater safety course. DNR statistics said that four out of five people who die in boating accidents in Wisconsin every year did not have formal training prior to going out on the water.

These courses are designed to teach boaters basic rules from who has the right of way to what to do in emergency situations.  For more information on boater safety courses offered in a classroom, please visit the DNR website at www.dnr.state.wi.us.  You can also visit www.boat-ed.com/Wisconsin if you are interested in learning more about the boater safety course available online.

Lastly, Northwestern Wisconsin has a lot to offer water enthusiasts.  One popular spot is the Apple River in Somerset, which provides tube rentals.  This is a perfect option for families looking to spend some quality time together and relax without breaking the bank.  If tubing is not the activity for you, then there is always kayaking or canoeing.  There are numerous rental facilities located near the St. Croix River, most of which even provide shuttles to the water for all rentals.

For more information on fun water activities across the state, please visit www.travelwisconsin.com or call the Department of Tourism’s toll-free number at 1-800-432-TRIP.  You can also visit the Burnett County Information Center in Siren, which is located inside The Lodge at Crooked Lake, at 24271 State Road 35 North, online at www.mylodge.com/things_00.htm or you can call toll-free 1-877-THE-LODGE.  Those wishing to get out and about in Polk County, the Information Center is located at the intersection of Highways 8 & 35 (710 Hwy. 35) in St. Croix Falls.  You can reach the center toll-free at 1-800-222-POLK or on the web at www.polkcountytourism.com.

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