Aspirus, DNR offer boating safety tips

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – Aspirus Health and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently offered tips on how to stay safe on the water this summer.

“As summer approaches in the Upper Midwest, the allure of boating draws many to the picturesque lakes and rivers,” a release from Aspirus said. “However, amidst the excitement, it’s crucial to remember the importance of following safe boating guidelines.”

“Your biggest piece of safety equipment on a boat is your life jacket,” said Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR Boating Law Administrator.

Kuhn. Photos courtesy of Aspirus.

The release said the legal mandate in both Wisconsin and Michigan requires boats to carry wearable life jackets for every person on board, with larger boats also needing throwable devices. Despite this longstanding law, Kuhn noted that insufficient life jackets remain a common violation.

“80% of boating fatalities nationwide are a result of drowning, making it the number one cause of death in boating accidents,” Kuhn said. “When worn, they’re proven to work.”

Kuhn urged boaters to wear consistently life jackets rather than just keeping them on board.

Jennifer Doering, Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant with Aspirus Health, echoed Lt. Kuhn’s sentiments.

“It’s important that we all have life jackets available, and not only just available, but we have them there and ready and on, preferably,” Doering stated.


In addition to wearing a life jacket, Doering recommended the following proactive safety measures:

  • Vigilance around children while swimming, as they can swiftly slip under the water.
  • Abstinence from alcohol during swimming or boating activities.
  • Awareness of water depth before jumping or diving.

“Recent changes in weather mean some of the lakes aren’t quite as deep as they were previously. It’s important to remember to check, especially before diving headfirst,” Doering added, highlighting potential risks, such as neck fractures or head injuries.

Additionally, Lt. Kuhn recommended the following precautions:

  • Heightened caution during periods of increased boat traffic, particularly on holiday weekends.
  • Reduced speed, especially in unfamiliar waters or for less experienced boaters.
  • Avoidance of night boating due to reduced visibility and higher collision risks.
  • Monitoring weather forecasts and refraining from water activities during storms.
  • Prohibition of bow riding, or sitting on the front of the boat with feet dangling off, while the boat’s motor is running, a practice that can lead to serious propeller injuries.
  • Abstinence from alcohol, especially when taking prescription medications.

“The other thing about alcohol is that people don’t realize how it affects people differently on the boat,” Kuhn explained. “Being out in the sun, the wave action, generally not eating a lot while out on the water – all that plays a part in how fast alcohol affects the body.”

Both experts stressed the importance of education and preparation. Kuhn encouraged boaters to take safety courses and familiarize themselves with boating basics, while Doering underscored the need for planning, designated drivers and prioritizing safety in all water-related activities.

“The days are long, so it’s a good time to go out and enjoy it,” Doering said. “But make sure that you leave yourself enough time to get where you need to go so you’re not going too fast. Talk about who is going to be the designated boat driver when enjoying alcohol. Go out and have a great time in our Midwest summers, but be safe out there.”

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