Rep. Warren Petryk serves in Wisconsin Assembly District 93
With summer officially started, Wisconsin's lakes and rivers are now at the peak time for recreational boating activity. Boating is a great way to enjoy the summer and the natural beauty of Wisconsin, but we need to do it responsibly. Before your next trip out, take some time to refresh yourself with the rules and regulations of the water and check to make sure you have all the required safety equipment on board.
First, before going on the water, you want to make sure that there are ample life jackets available. Life jackets don't work unless you wear them. Last year there were 21 fatal boating accidents in Wisconsin. These accidents range in the type of boat and factors involved but in a number of these accidents, a personal floatation device was not being used.
All vessels are required to have at least one USCG-approved wearable life jacket on board for each person. Certain activities, like personal watercrafts, are required by law to have one worn at all times. Be sure that all life jackets are in good condition, are readily accessible, and are the proper size for the person that needs to wear them. If you need more information about how to choose the right life jacket, visit www.uscgboating.org/images/howtochoosetherightlifejacket_brochure.pdf
Secondly, know the regulations for boating. For example, in Wisconsin, anyone over the age of 16 is required to complete a boating safety course to operate a motorboat (A person born before Jan. 1, 1989, is exempt from the safety course requirement). There may also be local regulations that you need to keep in mind. For example, this last month, the governor of Illinois was pulled over for speeding in Williams Bay, which has different speed limits depending on day and time of day.
Some other boating safety tips that the Wisconsin DNR recommends include:
• Leave alcohol onshore
• Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol's effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise, and vibration.
• Use and maintain the right safety equipment
• Have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard and one approved throwable device for any boat 16 feet and longer. The DNR recommends that everyone wear their life jackets while on the water.
• Have a fire extinguisher.
• Have operable boat lights. Always test boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries.
• Have emergency supplies. Keep on board in a floating pouch: cell phone, maps, flares, and first aid kit.
• Be weather wise
• Regardless of the season, keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing. If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early to avoid a long waiting line in inclement weather.
To find more information about Wisconsin's boating laws, responsibilities, and safety tips, download the DNR approved handbook at https://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/LE/LE0301.pdf or visit https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/