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Recent boating injuries bring safety education into forefront

A 23-year-old Kalamazoo, Michigan, woman lost a portion of her leg while riding in an inner tube behind a boat in Austin Lake on Sunday. Apparently, the driver was backing up to retrieve other swimmers from the water and the woman was accidentally pulled under the boat by the propeller. He leg was severed near her knee and the woman was taken to a local hospital where she was listed in serious condition.

While rare, such boating accidents certainly get our attention in the hot summer months when we are all seeking some respite at any number of our beautiful lakes. Not only are boats to blame, but personal watercraft like jet skis and wave runners cause some of the nearly 1,000 watercraft accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries and death each year in the U.S.

As a result, the Personal Watercraft Industry Association is pushing for increased safety and education classes for people who operate jet-propelled watercraft. There are several states that already require boating safety certificates including Michigan for minors wishing to operate boats and personal watercraft. In fact, some high schools near large bodies of water require boating safety as part of their curriculum.

Here in Michigan, no child 13 years of age or younger may operate a jet ski at all. Once they turn 14, they may operate a personal watercraft only after obtaining a boating safety certificate. Even then they must be accompanied or supervised by a person of at least 21 years old within 100 feet.

Just as with other motor vehicle accidents, if there is an accident on the water, it is crucial that investigators find out of all watercraft laws were followed. Not following the right-of-ways, boating while under the influence, or reckless or negligent operation of a watercraft are causes for any accident.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Accidents put spotlight on personal watercraft safety," Natalie DiBlasio and Jessica Tully, July 10, 2012

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Michigan woman loses part of leg in boating accident," July 9, 2012

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