As the weather is getting warmer, people across Michigan are beginning to launch their boats out on the state's water ways. But the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Lansing says with drownings up dramatically in 2011, it's important boaters take every safety precaution.
Statistics show that boating accidents happen more often on small, inland lakes like Lake Lansing than on Lake Michigan. That's why the Lansing Flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary wants to help people take preventative measures through boat safety checks and classes to avoid a boating accident.
The Lansing Flotilla offers free, boat safety checks at Lake Lansing. A volunteer goes through a checklist for the basic safety equipment required by state and federal law.
"If you pass, you get the sticker," said Jonathan Ahlbrand, a member of the Lansing Flotilla. "If you don't pass, there's no consequence - no one gets sent a message. We just give you a list of things you really need to do."
Volunteers say it helps give boaters a reminder for things like having life jackets available for all passengers, or making sure boat lights are working.
"There's a lot things you just don't think about, especially if it's the start of the season," said Ahlbrand. "You don't think about it because you're so excited to get on the water. So you might not be thinking about the anchor, or having something to bail water out, or a whistle to signal."
Having all the right safety equipment can help boaters in emergencies, and give them peace of mind to enjoy going out on the open waters.
Ahlbrand says the most likely person to be involved in a boating accident is a man between the ages of 20 and 50. Alcohol is often a contributing factor as well.
Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers will be at Lake Lansing on specific days to offer the free safe boating checks. Click on the Hot Button to find a link to the full schedule. They're also happy to meet up with boaters who can't make those dates. To confirm the scheduled times or to schedule another time/location, contact Ralph North at (517) 285-7377 or (517) 482-4225.
Boaters can also sign up for the safe boating classes the Lansing Flotilla offers. The next class will be this Saturday, May 19. It's an all day course, and students can earn their "Safe Boating Certificate." For more information, or to register for the class, call Douglas Colwell at (517) 974 - 2883.