DNR urges boaters, swimmers to wear life jackets after a string of drownings this summer

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- If you'll be out enjoying the waterways this Labor Day weekend, state officials want people to keep safety top of mind.

While it can be fun to spend time with family and friends on the lakes and rivers Wisconsin has to offer, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says it can also be dangerous.

They are highly encouraging people to wear life jackets even if you think drowning can't happen to you.

The majority of people who drown in boating accidents know how to swim but become incapacitated in the water such as being injured or unconscious, exhausted or weighed down by clothing, according to the DNR.

"Despite what you feel your level of swimming skill is – wear a life jacket," said Jason Roberts, recreation warden, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "I know it sounds super simple but if you look at how someone dies on the waterways it's people that overestimate their swimming skills and get into trouble."

So far this year, 16 people have died due to drowning in boating incidents with some of those hitting close to home occurring in Oconomowoc, Kenosha, Sheboygan and Milwaukee.

"We've had people that have drowned where passengers just simply didn't know where to find a life jacket," Roberts said.

Statistics show boaters who wear life jackets and take boater safety courses are most likely to stay safe on Wisconsin waters.

State officials are also urging boaters and swimmers to be responsible by knowing your limits with drinking alcohol and making sure you tell someone where you are going if you go swimming.

WATER SAFETY TIPS

  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket that has a snug fit and is fastened when you're on or near the water. Life jackets will keep you on top of the water if you walk off an unexpected drop-off, a wave or current overpowers you or you fall out of a boat.
  • Enjoy the waters sober and know your limits. Alcohol blurs a person's judgment, reaction time and abilities.
  • River shorelines and sandbars pose unseen dangers. Higher, fast-moving water can tax an individual's boating, paddling and swimming skills.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and let someone know where you are going.

More boating safety tips are available on the DNR website HERE.

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