2012-08-16 / Outdoors

DNR encourages PFDs

LANSING – The Department of Natural Resources is releasing just a few of the common-sense precautions to make boating safer in Michigan.

What’s the single simplest thing to make boating safer? Wear a PFD.

That’s been the mantra of the National Safe Boating Council for years, one with which the DNR fully agrees.

Most boaters are aware that the law requires they have an appropriate personal floatation device for everyone on board. But unless you are less than six years old, the law does not require that you wear them. And too many people opt out.

“People have them, but they’re stuffed under a seat somewhere and they don’t think about them until they’re in the water,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, boating safety administrator with the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “When things go terribly wrong there’s no time to find them.”

“Most people think about those big, bulky orange things when they think about personal floatation devices, but the technology has changed dramatically,” Turner continued. “The newer designs, thinner vests and inflatable PFDs, are a lot less bulky, more comfortable and they don’t get in your way.”

Boating safety has improved in recent years with a big drop in fatalities – 25 in 2010, down from 36 in 2010. Still, of the fatalities recorded last year, 20 of them were from drowning and 11 of those occurred simply because someone fell out of the boat. Wearing PFDs could cut those fatalities dramatically.

“A common occurrence is that people, for a variety of reasons, get out of their unanchored boat and then it is blown away by the wind or carried away by currents and they can’t get back to it,” Turner said. “Many people drown this way each year and it’s a tragedy that is very preventable.”

One recent development that could help is the inflatable beltpack PFD. They are easy to wear around the waist and do not interfere with movement.

“It’s out of the way and comfortable,” Turner said. “It’s what I often use when I’m out boating.

Our conservation officers are issued inflatable vests and wear them while working on the water. It has become the norm around the country for officers working on the water,” Turner added.

Inflatables are typically suspender-style PFDs that come with automatic or manual inflation devices. Turner recommends selfinflating models.

Boating is, statistically, not especially dangerous. In 2011, there were a total of 123 boating accidents reported, not that many compared to the 811,670 registered motorboats in Michigan.

To learn more visit www.michigan.gov/boating.

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