An Echo Press editorial: Don't become a boating statistic this fall
By the Echo Press Editorial Board
Throughout Minnesota, outdoor enthusiasts and boaters are enjoying the fall season in record numbers, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
However, there are potential dangers in the wake of all that fun.
The state is experiencing its deadliest boating season in nearly a decade and DNR conservation officers expect the state’s waters to remain popular places throughout the fall.
“Staying safe on the water isn’t just about checking things off a list – it’s a mindset,” said Adam Block, state boating law administrator in the DNR Enforcement Division. “Once you have that mindset, you’ll keep yourself safer and be a positive role model for other people learning how much fun there is to be had on Minnesota’s waters.”
So far this year, 13 people have lost their lives in boating accidents in Minnesota, which is the highest number since 2011 at the same point of the year, according to the DNR.
The two most common causes of boating fatalities in the state are capsizing and falling overboard, and the DNR warns that such incidents are more likely to be deadly during the fall cold-water periods.
DNR conservation officers are reminding all boaters to be aware of the dangers that arise as the water temperatures fall.
“We’re entering a transition period when the water temperature will start dropping, so now’s the time to prepare,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “All boaters should put safety above everything else, but new boaters, in particular, need to understand the risks associated with late-season boating and the steps they can take to minimize those risks.”
And there appears to be a lot of new rookie boaters out there. Although the DNR notes that it’s difficult to say exactly how many new boaters were on the water this summer, the data suggests the number was significant. More than 10,000 people completed the online boater education safety course, compared with the annual average of about 7,000. The number of new motorboat registrations is up more than 1,100 from 2019, and the number of new personal watercraft registrations is up nearly 500.
In addition, conservation officers have issued more warnings for boating safety violations, part of the DNR’s efforts to educate boaters and help them be safer in the future.
Boaters should heed the following advice from the DNR as they hit the water this fall:
Wear a life jacket (foam is more effective than inflatables during the cold-water season). It’s the one thing most likely to help people survive a fall into cold water.
Distribute weight evenly and abide by manufacturer’s weight limits to reduce the likelihood of falling overboard.
Have a means of communication. Boaters also should let other people know where they’re going and when they plan to return.
Watch the weather to avoid shifting winds or storms.
Even strong swimmers can be incapacitated quickly after a fall into cold water.