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DNR reminds water enthusiasts to wear a life jacket

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The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds anyone who hits the water this weekend to wear a life jacket.

Winds and summer temperatures were forecast for Saturday, making the water more inviting than ever after weeks of winter. Although Saturday’s temperatures may have felt like summer, the water is cold and choppy, and life jackets are a must before heading out to shore for the first paddle of the year.

“Safety is an important part of water fun. Most drowning victims on Wisconsin water bodies were not wearing life jackets,” said DNR Boating Act Administrator Lt. Darren Kuhn. “Putting safety first by wearing a life jacket and being respectful of the water are two important things to remember when heading out to a Wisconsin river and lake to enjoy the warm spring days.”

Nearly 80% of the 25 boating victims last year were not wearing a life jacket. Among them, 91% were men, with an average age of 46 years.

The ministry does not track all drownings – only deaths related to the use of a recreational activity item, such as a boat, kayak or canoe. Current and past boating incident reports are available on the MNR website.

“Guardians have responded to numerous drowning deaths to find a life jacket stuffed into a kayak or floating near the capsized canoe,” Kuhn said. “Drowning deaths are preventable. Putting on a life jacket before wading, playing along the shores or getting into a boat prepares you to focus on having fun.

Today’s life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for boating, fishing, paddling or hunting, and they are much cooler in hot weather.

Statistics show that boaters who wear life jackets and take boater safety courses are the most likely to stay safe on Wisconsin waters. Always follow the basic safety tips below and enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful lakes and rivers with your family and friends.

WATER SAFETY TIPS

  • Register now for an online boater training course.
  • Always wear a properly fitted, tight-fitting, tied lifejacket when on or near the water. Life jackets will keep you above water if you come out of an unexpected fall, or if a wave or current overpowers you or if you fall out of a boat or paddle board.
  • Enjoy sober waters and know your limits. Alcohol impairs a person’s judgement, reaction time and abilities.
  • River banks and sandbanks present unseen dangers. Higher and faster waters can challenge an individual’s navigation, paddling and swimming skills.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and let someone know where you’re going.
  • Consider wind conditions when venturing out on a small boat, canoe, kayak or paddleboard.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected and always wear your life jacket.