By Sara Powers

(CBS DETROIT) – As the Memorial Day holiday weekend approaches and Michiganders prepare for boating on state lakes, rivers, and streams, the Department of Natural Resources reminds everyone to put safety first.

This week, May 22 through May 28, is also National Boating Safety Week, a week devoted to promoting responsible boating and encouraging individuals to wear life jackets while on the water.

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Accidents reported to the DNR show that in 2020 there were 181 boating accidents reported in Michigan, including 33 fatalities. In addition to this, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that, nationally, drowning is the cause of death in 79% of all boating-related fatalities.

Two ways the risk of recreational boating accidents and drowning can be reduced by riding with an operator who has completed an approved boating safety course and by making sure to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Ronald McDonald, wearing a life jacket alongside DNR conservation officers, waves from a Michigan DNR patrol boat. | Credit: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources

DNR and McDonald’s Partner to Promote Life Jackets

The DNR and Mcdonald’s have partnered to highlight the importance of wearing life jackets. DNR conservation officers will be on the lookout this summer for children and teens wearing their life jackets correctly while on the water. Each child seen could receive a coupon for a free ice cream or apple slices at participating McDonald’s locations in Michigan.

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Lt. Tom Wanless, state boating law administrator and recreational safety, education, and enforcement supervisor with the DNR, encouraged everyone to get up to date on boating laws and regulations before ever leaving shore and ensure that boats, personal watercrafts (such as Jet Skis), and other safety gear are in good condition.

“Taking the time now can prevent potential problems later because accidents can happen at any time, and weather can quickly affect water conditions on inland waters and the Great Lakes,” Wanless said. “Familiarizing yourself and your fellow boaters with valuable safety tips and equipment can mean the difference between a great day on the water and a needlessly tragic outcome.”

Anyone born after June 30, 1996, must have a boating safety certificate to operate a boat. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1978, who plans to operate a personal watercraft, must also have a valid boater education safety certificate.

The DNR offers boating safety education courses online and as a traditional classroom course.

For more information about boating safety visit, Michigan.gov/Boating.

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