It’s boating season, and lots of people are itching to get out on the water. But a new report from the U.S. Coast Guard shows Michigan recreational boating deaths are on the rise.
38 people died, and 65 more were injured last year while boating in Michigan waters. Those numbers come from a report by the U.S. Coast Guard detailing how the number of fatalities in 2016 compare to years past.
“Alcohol is a contributing factor, in about 15% of those accidents, so those could have been very easily avoided,” says Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer, Shane Webster.
Webster says, it’s concerning to hear that the number of boating fatalities are on the rise. However, it’s also what motivates him to discover ways to reverse the trend.
“Majority of people are coming out here for fun, they’re out here for enjoyment, they’re taking their families, so it’s heart-wrenching to hear when lives get lost,” says Webster.
According to the report, Michigan ranked 4th highest in the nation for recreational boating fatalities in 2016. While access to water in the Great Lakes State allows more opportunity for water sports, officials say, another main reason behind the jump is the growth of sports like kayaking and paddle boarding.
“You need to practice with those things, before you maybe go out in the big water in the holiday weekend with a lot of traffic, get in the shallow water stay over there where there’s not a lot of traffic, not a lot of wake,” says Webster.
While 38 people died while boating last year, any others were lucky. Because according to the report, there were more than 100 boating accidents overall. A scary reminder why Webster says, it’s critical to check your boat and equipment over before heading out to the lake.
“Check and make sure your life jackets are good, make sure they’re not old and wore out, there’s no tears and rips, they’re not going to do a lot of good if they just sink down anyways,” says Webster.
Webster says, staying safe on the water really boils down to using common sense. Because even a day designed for fun in the sun, can quickly take a deadly turn.