With warm weather in the forecast for this weekend and most lakes free of ice, the Department of Natural Resources on Friday reminded anyone hitting the water in Wisconsin to wear a life jacket.
“Safety is an important part of water fun,” said DNR Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR boating law administrator, in a statement. “Putting safety first by wearing a life jacket and having respect for the water are two important things to remember when going to any Wisconsin river and lake to enjoy warm spring days.”
Boaters, anglers and paddlers face similar risks on the water in April. Although the air temperature may spike, the water is still cold, increasing the danger of hypothermia to anyone who falls in or capsizes.
Last year 25 boating fatalities were recorded in Wisconsin, tied with 2018 for the most in the last decade, according to DNR data. Twenty-one (84%) of the victims were not wearing a personal flotation device, according to the annual safety report. Ninety-one percent of the victims were male; the average age was 46.
Year after year, failure to wear a PFD is associated with the majority of boating fatalities in the state.
The DNR does not track all drownings but does for fatalities linked to the use of a recreational activity item, such as a boat, kayak or canoe.
Boating incident reports are available on the DNR website.
Kuhn said deaths from drowning are preventable.
“Wardens have responded to numerous drowning deaths only to find a life jacket stuffed inside a kayak or floating near the capsized canoe,” Kuhn said. “Putting on a life jacket before wading, playing along shores or getting in a boat gets you ready to focus on the fun.”
The agency highlighted improvements in materials and technologies which make modern life jackets more comfortable, lightweight and stylish.
Among the options are inflatable life jackets which afford greater mobility and flexibility and are much cooler in warmer weather.
Wisconsin statistics show boaters who wear life jackets and take boater safety courses are most likely to stay safe on the water, according to the DNR.
The agency offered the following water safety tips:
For more information, visit dnr.wi.gov.