With Jobbie Nooner this Friday we want everyone to be safe! Michigan boating deaths jumped in 2016, Coast Guard says

MUSKEGON, MI – Thirty-eight people died during 2016 while boating for fun in Michigan waters, according to statistics released Wednesday, May 31 by the U.S. Coast Guard.

That’s the most recreational boating fatalities the Coast Guard has counted in Michigan during a single calendar year since at least 2000, which how far back reports on the Coast Guard’s website go.

Among the states and territories, Michigan had the fourth-highest number of boating fatalities in 2016, according to the Coast Guard. Nationally, boating fatalities hit a five-year-high of 701.

Officials say a growth in paddle sports like kayaking are contributing to the spike, nationally and locally.

“I know that in the Great Lake region, the paddle sports are a particular area of concern,” said Lt. Amy Midgett, who’s based at the Coast Guard’s national headquarters in the Capitol.

Nationally, paddle crafts were involved in 24 percent of boating fatalities in 2016. Only open motorboats – as opposed to boats with closed cabins — were involved in a higher percentage of boating fatalities.

The Coast Guard gets its Michigan numbers from the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of boating fatalities and injuries in non-motorized (sector),” said the DNR’s Lt. Tom Wanless, who is the boating law administrator for the state. He didn’t have figures on hand immediately Wednesday afternoon. Kayaks and canoes are available for $120-$130 from most big-box retailers, he said, but it’s a mistake to try operating them without any training or experience.

“They’re not just toys,” he said.

Accidents and fatalities associated with paddle sports are increasing as the activities become more popular, said Petty Officer Second Class Lauren Laughlin of Coast Guard Great Lakes.

“It’s fun, I guess,” she said. “It could also be because they’re inexpensive. I think it’s just easier. it’s also more cost-effective.”

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Michigan has more registered watercraft than any other state. However, it doesn’t require paddle craft to be registered, Laughlin said. Neither do most of the other Great Lakes states, although Ohio is an exception.

In addition to Michigan’s 38 recreational boating deaths in 2016, 65 people were injured. There were 125 boating accidents, and damages totaled $550,170, according to the Coast Guard.

Alcohol use was a contributing factor in 10 accidents, seven deaths, and six injuries in Michigan in 2016.

Nationally, alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths.

“The boating safety community should view these statistics as a stark reminder of the importance of boating safety education,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, Chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters. “We are committed to providing boaters with resources including boating safety classes and vessel safety checks. One person lost or injured to a preventable boating accident is one too many so we encourage the boating public to use these educational resources as a means to prevent accidents.”

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