Giroux Trial Attorneys, P.C.
Personal Injury

How to Avoid Drowning Accidents While ‘Up North’ Boating

You were having a great weekend up north on the lake. The sun was shining. The kids were having fun. You were on your boat and having a good time. Then, something went wrong on the water, and a day of boating ended with drowning. 

To date, in 2020, there have been 38 Great Lakes drownings, with a whopping 876 drownings over the past ten years. Drowning is a wildly common cause of boating fatalities—79% of boating deaths were caused by drowning. What’s even more tragic is that many of these drowning accidents were preventable. 

In Michigan, we’re surrounded by lakes, and many of us spend our summers on the water. Don’t let your day at the lake run into foul waters. Here are a few essential tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe. 

Wear a Life Jacket

Chances are, you’ve heard this piece of advice approximately a million times before. And chances are, you’re strongly tempted to ignore it, especially if you’re confident in your swimming ability.

And that simple decision is a huge risk for yourself and your loved ones.

Michigan Life Jacket Laws state:

  • All vessels must be equipped with a personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board or towed, such as skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding. Jackets must be the proper size for each person on board. If you’re rusty, here’s a guide on how to choose life jackets (they’re not one-size-fits-all). 
  • Michigan law requires all children under six years of age to wear a US Coast Guard (USCG) –approved Type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway.
  • Each person riding on a personal watercraft, like a jet ski, must wear a life jacket. 
  • Michigan’s law permits a vessel less than 16 feet long, like a kayak or canoe, to choose either a life jacket or throwable device (PFD, TYPE IV)

Learn How to Swim

Seven main factors influence your risk of drowning. One of the most significant is a lack of swimming ability, alongside a lack of recognition of your own swimming proficiency.

While you may be confident in your boating abilities, the reality is that you cannot anticipate every possible scenario. If the worst-case scenario did happen and something went wrong, leaving you stranded in the water or throwing the occupants of your boat into the water, you would want everyone to have the skills required to keep themselves safe.

Also, keep in mind that your swimming ability may not be as high as you think. A national survey by the American Red Cross found that although 80% of Americans said they could swim, only 56% of Americans could perform all five of the Red Cross’s basic swimming skills:

  1. Jumping into water over your head
  2. Returning to the surface of the water to tread for one full minute.
  3. Turning around in a circle to find an exit
  4. Swimming 25 yards (75 feet) to an exit
  5. Exiting the water without using a ladder

Swimming lessons aren’t just for children, either. Only 2% of adults enroll in swimming classes, even though solid swimming proficiency significantly reduces the risk of drowning.

Know-How to Recognize and Respond to an Emergency

If an emergency did happen, you should know how to recognize and respond to it. Especially on the water, where an emergency can quickly deteriorate into tragedy.

Many emergencies on the water happen quickly and silently, and if a swimmer is in distress, they need help immediately. Never assume that a swimmer in distress is joking—unless you’re willing to take the risk of the consequences if they’re not kidding.

Remember, a swimmer in distress may still be in danger even if they can swim to some extent. A distressed swimmer may be able to swim but make little progress forward, which means they may not be able to get themselves to safety fast enough. These are the critical moments when a swimmer in distress can quickly become a drowning victim.

There are two types of drowning victims: active and passive. An active drowning victim may be vertical in the water but unable to move forward or tread water. They may instinctively try to press down with their arms to keep their head above water. They may not initially appear to be in distress, which is why you have to pay attention if they call for help.

On the other hand, a passive drowning victim is motionless and floating face down on the surface of the water. They cannot call for help, which is why you should always keep an eye on the water in case someone cannot call out.

If someone is in distress, always try to reach from land or throw a flotation device to the first—don’t go to them, or you may get trapped with them. An active drowning victim may also panic and latch onto you, dragging you down with them.

If someone is in distress, call 911 immediately and keep the numbers of your local emergency services on hand. Ideally, it would be best to enroll in CPR and first aid courses before going on the water if you need to assist someone.

Helping You Recover After Drowning Accidents

When a day at the lake turns into a nightmare, it throws your family into crisis. It’s even worse if you know that the accident could have been avoided if someone else had not been careless enough to put your family in danger.

We know the pain facing families recovering from drowning accidents and boating accidents, and we know how to make the legal system work for you to help your family get the tools to recover from tragedy. Our firm is built on the premise of care, respect, and hard work, with every attorney treating every client with the same care and diligence they would give to their own loved ones.

Because when your family is recovering from a tragedy, you wouldn’t want anything less.

If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, click here to schedule your free consultation.

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