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Stay afloat with life jackets and online training

Summer's here. Hurrah for boating weather!

State recreational safety specialists are reminding boaters that life jackets are required for each occupant aboard a boat. Also, Wisconsin has a new mandatory safety education law.

"Today's life jackets are lightweight, compact, and a lot more comfortable," notes Roy Zellmer Department of Natural Resources boating law administrator. "And they are the most important item for your boat. Think of them similar to the bike helmet for a bicyclist or a hard hat for a construction worker. They're key to staying safe while having fun aboard your boat this season."

Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard show that in 2006 unexpected capsizing and falls overboard accounted for 85 percent of all boating accidents. Roughly 90 percent of all boaters who drown are not wearing a life saving jacket.

"And, mixing alcohol with a high-speed motor on a watery track is a recipe for disaster," Zellmer said.

Zellmer also said all boaters are bound by a new state law to complete a boating safety course if they were born in or after 1989.

"Eventually, this law will cover all residents," he said. "However, the phase-in is on. And completing a safety course is a great idea whether the law mandates it or not."

Courses may be completed in person or online. The Department of Natural Resources has more information about the course - both online and classroom - on its Boating Safety Web page.

"Summer is such a great time in Wisconsin - with its 15,000 lakes and roughly 45,000 miles of streams and rivers," Zellmer said. "Stay safe and you can enjoy yourself year after year."