LABOR DAY: Boat safety tips for holiday weekend

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Boating crashes and deaths related to boating incidents increased last year during the pandemic in the U.S. according to the U.S. Coast Guard. With people out on the water this holiday weekend, experts are urging people to stay cautious.

Boating deaths increased by more than 25% across the country last year. Here in Michigan, it rose nearly 35 percent. Safety experts say they’ve never seen an increase like this, and they want everyone to know what they’re doing when they’re out on the water this holiday weekend.

In 2020 there were 159 boast crashes. It’s the highest number in Michigan in the last 5 years, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Usually we see like a 3-5% increase or decrease but people went out and got a boat because they were going to social distance and many of them are not aware of how to operate that boat,” said Jonathan Ahlbrand, volunteer for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and a member of the Lansing Sailing Club.

With nice weather this holiday weekend, you can expect to see a lot of people out on the water.

“Sun felt really nice and a good breeze too,” said Ben Lynch, member of the Michigan State University water skiing team. “It was beautiful besides all the boat traffic but what can you expect on Labor day weekend,” said Gavin Mcandrews, also a member of Michigan State University water skiing team.

Ahlbrand patrols the Great Lakes often along with smaller local ones. He says he sees the same mistakes over and over again.

“People not understanding how to operate their boat. Doing things like going out on Lake Huron with no life jackets for example which is illegal. Or people overloading a boat, I see that a lot even on Lake Lansing. They’re people not paying attention to the rules of the road,” said Ahlbrand.

To help stay safe Ahlbrand suggest making sure all passengers have a life jacket, do not drink while operating the boat, be aware of your surrounding while having someone on the look out, and most importantly get a vessel safety check.

“When your on an inland lake there is a speed limit of 55,” Ahlbrand said. “You need to operate in a counter clockwise manner when you’re going around the lake. And have a lookout. Whether your pulling a skiier or just joy riding somebody should always be looking around for the other guy because it may not be you but it may be the other guy who isn’t paying attention,” he continued.

Lynch and McAndrews says their water skiing team is always prepared.

“All our drivers are trained, they know the rules of the river. Everyone is always keeping an eye out for other boats and making sure we’re safe, and making sure our skier is safe,” said Lynch.

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