Michigan boating deaths, accidents declined in '04
Written by Detroit Free Press   
Monday, 23 May 2005 16:51
Michigan's boating season shifts into high gear this weekend with a chance to build on an improving safety record.

The number of boating deaths and accidents dropped in 2004, according to a report released by the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents.

There were 170 reported boating accidents in Michigan last year, the report said. That's a 25 percent decline from 2003.

There were 26 deaths reported in 2004, down from 29 in 2003.

The number of boat registrations also dropped for the second consecutive year. Michigan had 944,800 boats registered in 2004, down 1.3 percent from 2003 levels.

Increased public awareness of boating laws is helping drive down the number of accidents and deaths, according to boating groups. But Michigan's safety record would be even better if more people used life jackets, said Gary Mitchell, spokesman for the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents.

Of the 26 people who died in boating accidents last year, just eight were wearing life jackets.

"The lack of wearing life jackets is what historically has been the problem," Mitchell said. "It's killing boaters."

The other issue is alcohol, which was a factor in about half of the boating deaths. Capsizing and falling overboard are the two most common accidents leading to death.

About 75 percent of all boating accidents in Michigan occur in June, July and August. More than half occur on weekends. Most occur on inland lakes.

About 29 percent of last year's accidents involved personal watercraft such as Jet Skis.

Boaters blame the drop in registrations on Michigan's sluggish economy. Annual registrations have dropped nearly 6 percent since 2002.

"Michigan seems to be having a slower recovery than a lot of places," said Van Snider, president of the Livonia-based Michigan Boating Industries Association. "That has affected boat sales."

The state had more than 1 million registered boats from 2000 through 2002, nearly one boat for every 10 Michigan residents.

Michigan still leads the nation in the number of registered boats, the insurance group said. California, Florida, Texas and Minnesota also traditionally are among the national leaders in boat registrations.

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