County, DNR urge boating safety as many head to the water for Memorial Day

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MARATHON COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) -- If you're heading onto the water this weekend, it's important to make safety a priority.

Many people are using their time out on the water to escape from the COVID-19 pandemic. But it's important to make sure your boat is a safe place to escape.

Safety experts in the area say life jackets and light drinking are key to a safe and fun time.

"Make sure that you have enough life jackets for each and everyone on board, and make sure that they fit properly, don't have a child-sized life jacket for an adult and vice versa," said Michael Van Offeren, recreational safety deputy for Marathon County. "Make sure that all your gear is in working condition. Make sure all your life jackets are in good working order, there's no rips or tears in them, all the straps work, and all the buckles fasten."

Safe drinking is another way to guarantee your ride is free of bumps.

"Making sure people are safe and able to drive those boats responsibly so that way they don't collide into another boat or into some other obstruction," said Van Offeren.

"The operators of the boats, they need to remember that they got to stay sober so they can get everyone safely to and from where they're going. A lot of our boating accidents have alcohol as a factor," said Jacob Holsclaw, recreation warden for the DNR.

It's something they and local sheriff's departments will be looking out for.

“There’s a lot of people out and about, using the water resources, so I expect that there’s going to be a lot of rec patrols, so sheriff’s departments and police departments are going to have people out as well as the DNR. The big thing we're going to be looking for is safety," Holsclaw said.

He added that boaters should also get familiar with the area they’re going out I, and ask locals about any potential dangers they should be aware of.

If it's your first time back on the water for the year, they recommend you get a refresher on the rules and regulations. You can find that information on the DNR website or pick up a copy in person.