Coast Guard urges operator safety amidst increase in personal watercraft accidents

Search for possible missing kayaker near MauiDETROIT — Over the past month, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit has responded to 14 distress incidents related to personal watercraft including high-power personal watercraft, kayaks, and paddleboards.

These cases include personal watercraft collisions, overturned vessels, and lost or disoriented mariners.

While the Coast Guard’s efforts resulted in eight lives saved and 17 lives assisted, four people suffered serious injuries, and three people lost their lives.  While we fully support and encourage people to enjoy the beauty of the Great Lakes and the associated waterways, we urge the boating public to take the following proactive steps to ensure their safety:

-Wear your life jacket.  The vast majority of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.  While there are many factors that can contribute to boating/watercraft accidents, a life jacket can save a life even after an accident has occurred.

-Enjoy alcoholic beverages responsibly.  Michigan and Ohio’s legal drinking age is 21 years old.  The legal blood alcohol content limit for recreational vessel operation is 0.08%.  Dehydration and long term exposure to sunlight exaggerates the effect of alcohol on the body and slows cognitive reaction time.

-Use caution when operating personal watercraft and other high-power watercraft. Stay well clear of other vessels, as larger boats are not nearly as maneuverable or capable of altering course quickly to avoid contact.

-Let friends and family know where you are going and how long you plan to be out on the water.  In the event of an emergency, this information is crucial in providing an efficient and effective response.

-If you or a family member is in distress on the water, contact the U.S. Coast Guard at (313) 568-9560 or VHF-FM channel 16 immediately.

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