It’s summer, and for some that means relaxing and fun weekends on the lakes. To ensure that boaters are safe, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is heightening enforcement starting Friday.
The MDNR conservation officers will be having extra boat patrols on the Great Lakes, inland lakes and rivers as part of Operation Dry Water. The year-long effort is to prevent boating related injuries and death, by raising awareness among recreational boaters about the dangers of boating while under the influence.
“Operating a motorboat under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances is illegal and dangerous,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator and supervisor of the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s recreational safety, education and enforcement section. “Conservation officers, along with other law enforcement officers across the state, will be focusing their efforts on all illegal boating activity, with a concentrated effort on drunk boating.
“Our goal is to save lives, and this is one way in which we can achieve that goal.”
The conservation officers will also be warning passengers to stay sober while boating. Intoxication can cause them to slip or fall overboard, or can lead to other accidents. According to a press release, studies show that passengers are 10 times more likely to fall overboard when they have consumed alcohol.
Alcohol use can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold water immersion.
While boating, here are some safety tips from the MDNR:
Wear a life jacket. More than 80 percent of drowning accidents in the United States are due to people not wearing their life jackets.
Make sure the boat is properly equipped and equipment is in good working order. In addition to all legally required equipment, such as life jackets and fire extinguishers, always carry additional items such as a first-aid kit, nautical charts and an anchor. Make sure navigation lights are working properly. Being on the water is not the time for a breakdown or emergency.
File a float plan. Always let a family member or friend on shore know the “who, what, when and where” of your trip. Let them know when you are expected to be back. Give them phone numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in the event you don't return when expected.
Maintain a sharp lookout. Stay alert for other boats, swimmers, skiers and objects in the water. This is especially true when operating in crowded waterways, at night and during conditions of restricted visibility.
Carry a marine radio or cell phone. Be prepared to call for help in case you are involved in an accident, your boat becomes disabled or you otherwise need assistance. Program the phone numbers for the local emergency dispatch center and U.S. Coast Guard in your cell phone. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged, but be aware that there are often gaps in coverage on the water
Pack sunscreen, bottled water and a blanket or umbrella. In addition to sunscreen, you’ll need a blanket or umbrella to protect you from the hot sun. Bring extra bottled water, more than you’ll need, in case of an emergency.
For more information, including boating safety class information, click here.