Labor Day weekend marks the end of the recreational boating season for many Minnesotans, but it is imperative they don’t let their guard down as the season draws to a close.
This year already has been the deadliest in more than a decade on the state’s waterways, highlighting the need for people to be safe as they hit the water for the long weekend.
“We know it’ll be a busy weekend on the water, and more than likely a busy fall as well,” Adam Block, state boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division, said. “Having a safety-focused mindset is the best way people can ensure a fun and successful trip on the water.”
So far this year, 17 people have lost their lives in boating accidents in Minnesota, which is the highest number since 2005.
Most of fatal boating incidents in any given year occur during the cold-water periods of the spring and fall, which means people who venture out in September and beyond need to be extra vigilant about their safety.
“As the water temperature begins to drop, it’s vital that anyone on or near the water is prepared for an unexpected fall into the water,” Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director, said. “We say it all the time, but it bears repeating: There’s no better way to stay safe on the water than wearing a life jacket.”
Boaters should heed the following safety reminders as they hit the water:
- Wear a life jacket (foam life jackets are more effective than inflatables during the cold-water season).
- Distribute weight in the boat evenly and abide by manufacturer’s weight limits to reduce the likelihood of falling overboard.
- Have a means of communication. Boaters also should let other people know where they’re going and when they plan to return.
- Watch the weather to avoid shifting winds or storms.
- Keep in mind that even strong swimmers can be incapacitated quickly after a fall into cold water.
- Wear an engine cut-off device if the boat is equipped with one.
For more information on staying safe on or around cold water, see mndnr.gov/safety/boatwater/cold-water.html