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5 Suggestions for Savvier Safer Boating

Photo: Coworkers wearing life jackets at work

Last year 14 people, all male, died in Minnesota while boating. In four cases, the men drowned after their canoes or kayaks capsized. Of the 36 non-fatal boating accidents reported by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), capsizing, collisions and water skiing-like activities dominated the incident list. Minnesota Sea Grant is participating in National Safe Boating Week (May 16 - 22) to help improve upon these statistics. Stay safe out there with these five suggestions:

  1. Wear a life jacket. Out of the 14 who died while boating last year, only one was wearing a life jacket. Minnesota waters can be so frigid that even a great swimmer might struggle for shore if their boat capsizes. The DNR reports that over 30 percent of fatal boating accidents occur when water temperatures are less than 70 degrees. Motorboat operators are required to have a life preserver for every person in the boat as well as a throwable life cushion.
  2. Stay sober. Much like "Driving Under the Influence," every U.S. state has laws regarding booze, drugs and boating. In Minnesota drinking and boating is legal as long as the driver's blood alcohol level is under 0.08. Still, the DNR cites the use of alcohol and drugs as being involved in about one-third of all boating fatalities.
  3. Stay alert. By far, collisions with other watercraft tops the U.S. Coast Guard's list of accident types; operator inattention, improper lookout and operator inexperience are primary contributing factors. Texting while driving, taking your hands off the wheel, or giving in to distractions can have serious ramifications, including being thrown overboard, capsizing, or colliding with a dock or rock. Consider taking a boating safety course.
  4. Keep an eye on the weather. Storms can move in quickly and create rough conditions that may lead to dangerous situations. Check the forecast and inform a friend of your whereabouts before heading out onto the water, particularly if you are in a canoe or kayak.
  5. Maintain your boat. Proper fueling techniques reduce the risk of onboard fires, exposure to lethal fumes, and harmful fluids spilling into the water. Maintain motors and fuel lines to avoid becoming stranded. Be sure to "Clean, Drain, Dry" (www.protectyourwaters.net) to help keep Minnesota waters safe from harmful aquatic invasive species, too.

Join Minnesota Sea Grant in celebrating National Safe Boating Week! Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day is tomorrow (www.seagrant.umn.edu/news/2015/05/15)! Visit with us at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth, Minn., on May 16 (www.seagrant.umn.edu/news/2015/05/16). To learn more about safe boating, visit http://safeboatingcampaign.com.

Posted on May 14, 2015


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