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Guns, Alcohol, Boats Can Be A Dangerous Combination: Wayne County Sheriff's Office Urges Boater Safety This Season

(CBS DETROIT) - Boating season in Michigan is upon us, and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office wants to remind boaters to have fun while on the waters but also be safe while doing so.

They're loading up and hitting the water. The Wayne County Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol Unit has one mission in mind: keeping boaters safe.

"The year before, we had about seven drownings which was a high year. Last year there were only two," said Sgt. Michael Roehrig with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol Unit.

Roehrig says the goal is to have no drownings, but if someone finds themselves in need, he says the Marine division is well equipped to assist.

"Our dive team consists of nine divers... All of our equipment stays on the rig when we get a dive call out anywhere in the county we'll respond," Roehrig said.

The unit has five vessels covering 144 square miles and 38 miles of the international border of water.

Prior to us taking a ride along the Detroit River and Trenton Channel as the unit patrolled the area, they offer some safety reminders for boaters.

"Everybody on board has a life jacket, readily accessible, there's a fire extinguisher, a sounding device and your registration," said Lt. Matthew Gloster with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol Unit.

Sheriff Raphael Washington also wants to remind boaters that when drinking and driving the same rule applies as operating a vehicle, and for CPL holders to leave their guns at home.

"If you have your gun with you and you're drinking a little more and you're intoxicated you got a few issues," Washington said.

With many accidental shootings lately, the sheriff's office will be providing boaters with free gun locks as well as free boating safety classes, especially for those new to the water.

"We're seeing many more first-time boaters and jet skiers out on the water," Washington said. "We're also seeing substantially more younger boaters than in years past. We all know a fun day out on the water can change in a second, so we want to do our best to make sure everyone is prepared."

The following information is from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office:

If you need a boating license, the Wayne County Sheriff's Marine Division, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, conducts Basic Boating Safety Courses. The courses are held at the John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (5437 West Jefferson Avenue, Trenton, MI 48183). We hope to host another evening class in June or July if there's enough interest. For registration, please call the Wayne County Sheriff Marine Unit at 734-675-2660.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 79% of all boating-related deaths are due to drowning, and alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in deadly boating accidents.

In 2020, there were 181 Michigan boating accidents reported, including 33 deaths (only 21% of people were wearing a life jacket). There were 20 drownings and nearly $2.2 million in property damage reported. On average, the sheriff's office makes 2-3 recoveries per year.

  • As of April 20, 2022, fire extinguishers must not be more than 12 years old, according to the date of manufacture stamped on the bottle
  • Children under six years old must wear a USCG-approved life jacket when riding on the open deck of any vessel
  • Vessels must be equipped with a readily accessible personal flotation device for each person on board
  • Due to high water issues, Wayne County has a 500-feet slow no-wake ordinance

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