The United States Coast Guard and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources want you to put safety first by boating sober and wearing a life jacket before you hit the waters in the area to partake this holiday weekend.
Almost 80 percent of fatal boating incidents involve drowning and alcohol use is a leading cause of accidents on the water. According to the Wisconsin DNR, two people have died from boating accidents so far this year and 20 other ones died last year.
Local Coast Guard Auxiliary member Jeff Feuerstein reminds everyone that all on board a watercraft need a personal floatation device to increase their chance of survival.
The leading causes of watercraft crashes are due to operator inexperience, inattention, recklessness, and speeding.
The Wisconsin DNR offers online boater education courses to help improve water safety. You can sign up for the course by clicking on this link.
You can find more boating safety tips from the DNR below.
LEAVE ALCOHOL ONSHORE
- Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol's effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise, and vibration.
USE AND MAINTAIN THE RIGHT SAFETY EQUIPMENT
- Have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard and one approved throwable device for any boat 16 feet and longer. The DNR recommends that everyone wear their life jackets while on the water.
- Have a fire extinguisher.
- Have operable boat lights - Always test boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries.
- Emergency supplies - Keep on board in a floating pouch: cellphone, maps, flares and first aid kit.
PADDLE BOARD SAFETY TIPS
- Wear a life jacket! - More than 90% of boat fatalities related to drowning involve victims not wearing life jackets. You need one for your safety. You also need one because Wisconsin law, as well as U.S. Coast Guard law, treats paddleboards the same as kayaks and canoes. This means there must be a personal flotation device for each person on board. However, the best way to obey this law and to ensure your safety is to just wear the life jacket.
- Carry a whistle
- Be a competent swimmer
- Know how to self-rescue
- Know how to tow another board
- Know the local regulations and navigation rules
- Understand the elements and hazards – winds, tidal ranges, current, terrain
- Know when to wear a leash
- Be defensive – don’t go where you aren’t supposed to be and avoid other swimmers, boaters, paddleboards
- Use proper blade angle to be the most efficient paddle boarder
- And, take a safety course, Paddling Safety Course[exit DNR]
BE WEATHER WISE
- Regardless of the season, keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing. If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early to avoid a long waiting line in inclement weather.
TAKE THESE STEPS BEFORE GETTING UNDERWAY
- Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
- Open all hatches and run the blower after you refuel and before getting underway. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine and if you smell fumes, do not start the engine.
- Check the boat landing for any local regulations that apply. If boating on the Great Lakes or Mississippi River, review the federal regulations for additional requirements.
LOADING AND UNLOADING YOUR BOAT
- Overloading a boat with gear or passengers will make the boat unstable and increase the risk of capsizing or swamping. Abide by the boats capacity plate which located near the boat operators position.
FOLLOW NAVIGATION AND OTHER RULES ON THE WATER
- Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.
- After leaving the boat launch, maintain slow-no-wake speed for a safe and legal distance from the launch.
- Follow boat traffic rules.