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May 22, 2012

MADISON - It's the preventable death that will haunt the survivors. That's what National Safe Boating Week is about - saving lives with the simple maneuver of donning a life jacket.

"Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket - and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too - before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock," says Roy Zellmer, boating law administrator for the Department of Natural Resources. "The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat's side for whatever reason is unrealistic."

National Safe Boating Week is the last full week before the much celebrated Memorial Day weekend, which typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. And Wisconsin is well known to the boating community.

Watch more video segments on boating safety on DNR YouTube Channel Recreation Safety playlist.

The Badger State is home to 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers enjoyed by nearly one million resident boaters and thousands of out-of-state boaters. National Safe Boating Week is intended to to help all boating enthusiasts continue to enjoy this recreational opportunity in the safest way possible. And that means wearing a life jacket.

Of the 23 boating fatalities in Wisconsin last year, 13 were drowning and none of the victims was properly wearing a life jacket. From 2007-2011 there were 67 people who drowned in boating incidents in Wisconsin and 91 percent of them were not wearing lifejackets.

"This mirrors the national statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, which show over the past few years that 90 percent of all boaters who drown were not wearing a life jacket," Zellmer said. "Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car - by the time you realize you need it, it's too late to put it on."

The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin law require vessels under 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, commonly called a life jacket, for each person on board. This means that even canoes and kayaks must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board. Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV throwable PFD for the boat.

In order to be an acceptable, each PFD must be:

Type V PFDs (those that inflate) do not meet the PFD carriage requirements unless they are worn.

PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to also protect the wearer from cold water. Sellmers says no matter which PFD one chooses, they should get one that's right for their planned activities, and the water conditions they expect to encounter. Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy.

National Safe Boating Week is a good time to review other important safety items for boaters as well, Zellmer said. These include:

"Mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Zellmer said. "We would like to make 2012 the safest boating season ever. We can do it if everyone follows safe boating practices."

For more information about safe boating in Wisconsin search for "boat" on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanne M. Haas, DNR Public Affairs Manager - Division of Enforcement and Science, 608-267-0798

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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