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An Echo Press Editorial: Don't let summer fun turn deadly

A youngster waves a flag at last summer's Chain of Lakes Fourth of July boat parade in Alexandria. (Echo Press file photo)

Now that we are finally getting some summer-like weather, it's an opportune time to focus on being safe on the water.

Last year, the Douglas County area, which is brimming with lakes, was fortunate to have no drownings occur. But drownings claimed two people's lives here in 2017 and three in 2016.

Let's all work harder to keep those drownings at zero for another summer.

Statewide, boating fatalities claimed 14 lives in Minnesota last year and 12 the previous year. Only one of those deaths happened even though the victim was wearing a life jacket.

During the past decade, there's been a trend that men between the ages of 20 and 60 are the most likely to drown while boating and are the least likely to be wearing a life jacket, according to Lisa Dugan, boating safety representative with the DNR

"It's pretty clear that wearing a life jacket could easily prevent a significant percentage of boating deaths," Dugan said.

The DNR reminds lake goers to review boating regulations, inspect their watercraft and gear, enlist a mechanic to check exhaust systems for potential carbon monoxide leaks, and verify their boats are equipped with the following:

• U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jackets for each person onboard (children under 10 must wear a properly fitting life jacket while underway).

• A throwable flotation device on boats 16 feet or longer.

• A horn or a whistle.

• Type B, U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher.

• Navigation lights in working order.

• Valid boat registration, with numbers visible.

Watercraft can be registered in person at any deputy registrar of motor vehicles, at the DNR License Center in St. Paul, or online at mndnr.gov/licenses.

To stay safe on the water, the DNR offers these tips:

• Actually wear the life jacket. Don't have it stuffed under a seat.

• Tell a friend. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. If you're not back, they should call 911. Bring a charged-up phone with you.

• Be aware of weather. Don't let a storm sneak up on you. Go slow in rough water to avoid capsizing.

• Be board smart. Take a boating safety course. Know your boat; stay seated and low in the boat to prevent falls overboard.

• And here's a big one: Stay sober. Alcohol is the number one factor in boating fatalities.

Those lazy days on the lake make this area a paradise for summer fun, but don't let that lull you into making a fatal mistake.

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