If you live in Michigan, chances are water sports are part of your lifestyle. The close proximity of the Great Lakes makes it easy for families to enjoy such sports as boating, jet skiing, swimming and more. At the same time, it’s important for parents to take proper safety precautions to minimize the risk of accidents.
Despite having a short swimming season, the Great Lakes continues to experience a high drowning rate. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, drowning claimed 66 lives in the Great Lakes in 2013 alone. By learning water sports safety rules, people can avoid dangerous situations that result in drowning.
There are strict requirements for operating a boat legally in Michigan. They are as follows:
- Children under 12 can only operate motorboats with 35 horsepower or less. To operate boats from 6 horsepower to 35 horsepower, they must have a boating safety certificate and be accompanied by someone 16 years or older.
- Individuals born on or after July 1, 1996 must have a boating safety certificate.
- Individuals born before July 1, 1996 have no restrictions on motorboat operation.
The foremost causes of tragic watercraft accidents are inexperience, recklessness, speeding and inattention and the primary cause of death is drowning, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Taking a boater safety course and acquiring a boating safety certificate can greatly contribute to your safety and security. The following safety tips can also help protect you in the water.
- Never drink alcohol or use drugs when boating.
- Always use life jackets when out on the water.
- Carry emergency supplies including a fire extinguisher, mobile phone, radio, flares, maps and first aid kit on all expeditions.
- Always inform someone of your boating plans and timetable.
- Keep abreast of weather conditions and learn how to distinguish potentially dangerous weather changes.
- Don’t overload your boat with passengers or gear to avoid capsizing.
Jet Ski Safety
In addition to boating, Michigan also has requirements for operating a personal watercraft (PWC). The minimum age for riding a jet ski is 14, with the following restrictions:
- 14 and 15 year olds must have a boating safety certificate and be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or individual 21 years and older.
- 16 years onward and those born after December 31, 1978 must have a boating safety certificate.
- Individuals born on or before December 31, 1978 have no restrictions.
Jet skis are extremely popular on Michigan’s waterways, but they also pose great risks to those who take too many chances. The following rules will enhance safety as you enjoy your sport.
- Always wear a life jacket.
- Never drink or use drugs prior to or during jet ski usage.
- Wear appropriate riding gear (wet suit, goggles, gloves, etc.) for optimum protection.
- Stay within appropriate speed limits in populated areas.
- Don’t go out alone or after dark.
Parents can contribute to water safety by teaching their children to swim at an early age, supervising their water play and setting safety guidelines for them to follow. As much as possible, choose swim sites with lifeguards and make sure your children and teens swim with a buddy. At the lake, always heed warning signal flags averting you of possible swimming dangers such as high tides or strong currents. Stick with areas that are safe or known to you and never let your kids or teens dive into unknown water sites where hidden obstacles could cause a serious accident.