July 16, 1999
KALAMAZOO -- Serious boating accidents are on the decline, but there still are troubling problems on Michigan's lakes.
Twenty-five years ago, boating deaths in Michigan approached 100 and have dropped to a little more than 20 a year, says Linda Powell, a WMU assistant professor of health, physical education and recreation. Though serious accidents are on the decline, one cause for concern involves the growing popularity of Jet Skis and other personal watercraft.
"Personal watercraft make up less than 10 percent of the more than 980,000 registered watercraft in Michigan. Yet 40 percent of the 514 boating accidents in 1998 involved personal watercraft. Four of the 25 persons killed in boating accidents last year in Michigan were on personal watercraft compared to just one in 1997."
Recent changes in boating laws prohibit children under 14 from operating personal watercraft and require boating safety courses. Powell credits the rise in boating safety classes and a growing awareness of the dangers of alcohol with helping to reduce the number of serious boating accidents overall. She encourages people to know their boat's capacity, watch the weather closely and to carry a cellular phone or radio when on large bodies of water. People also should wear life jackets at all times, not just have them on hand.
Media contact: Powell can be reached at his office at 616 387-2687, or contact Mark Schwerin in the Office of University Relations, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA