Sheriff urges boater safety this season

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 31, 2018

 Students head out onto Lake St. Clair with members of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division.

Students head out onto Lake St. Clair with members of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham speaks to students during a boating safety event at the sheriff’s Marine Division in Harrison Township May 24.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham speaks to students during a boating safety event at the sheriff’s Marine Division in Harrison Township May 24.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — National Safe Boating Week was May 19-25. It not only kicked off the first major holiday in Michigan’s boating season — Memorial Day — it also served as a reminder of how to stay safe on the water all summer long.

On May 24, at the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division on South River Road in Harrison Township, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham honored and congratulated some local seventh-graders who know a thing or two about safe boating.

The students, from various Macomb County schools, recently received perfect marks on their boater safety course final exam. As a result, they were given tours of the Marine Division boathouse and rides on the sheriff’s patrol boats.

One of those students was Seneca Middle School seventh-grader Orion Wilson, who said he will feel better prepared when he heads out on the water with his family this year.

“It’s really important to understand boating safety so everyone is safe,” said the 14-year-old Chippewa Valley Schools student.

The Marine Division teaches the state-approved boater safety class during the winter ice season. Deputies are in seventh-grade classes throughout Macomb County, and in 2017 they taught approximately 6,000 students.

Marine Division safety officers also teach adults in the evenings through many city and township parks and recreation programs.

Current statistics show that 75 percent of all boating accidents are the result of operator error. Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said his office’s efforts are aimed at reducing this statistic through education.   

“We really strive out here at the Marine Division in Macomb County to educate,” Wickersham said. “We want educated boaters out there.”

The Marine Division is staffed by four full-time sworn personnel year-round, and four additional sworn deputies during the summer. The Marine Division also has 72 reserve officers.

Macomb County has 48,943 registered boaters.

The Marine Division encourages all boaters to have a basic boater safety class prior to operating on the water. And anyone born after July 1, 1996, must have passed a boater safety class to legally operate a vessel.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2016, and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Officials urge boaters to always make sure a boat is equipped with enough life jackets for everyone on board, and to make sure they fit properly and are in good condition before heading out on the water.

For more information on life jackets or to complete an online boater safety course, visit boat-ed.com.