With waterways across the state clearing of ice, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds anxious boaters that wearing a life jacket is a critical safety necessity during the spring "cold water" season.
While boaters should always wear a life jacket no matter the water temperature or season, public safety officials stress wearing a life jacket - not just having it on the boat - is the one action that significantly increases the chances of surviving a fall into cold water.
"The shock of falling into cold water triggers your gasp reflex, which more than likely means inhaling water," said Lisa Dugan, DNR boating safety representative. "Wearing a life jacket gives you a fighting chance to get your head above water, stay calm instead of panicking, and call for help before hypothermia sets in."
Though air temperatures continue to rise, water temperatures statewide are still dangerously cold - cold enough to cause the gasp reflex and incapacitate even strong swimmers in less than one minute.
In Minnesota, more than 30 percent of boating fatalities occur on cold water, and accident records show the victims are disproportionately male.
"Over the past decade, we've seen a steady and troubling trend that indicates men between the ages of 20 and 60 are the most likely to drown while boating, and are the least likely to be wearing a life jacket," Dugan said.
"Cold-water drowning victims in Minnesota are also much more likely to be anglers than any other type of recreational boater. Add this up, and it's clear that if male anglers were to put their safety first and put on their life jackets, a significant percentage of boating deaths could easily be prevented."
More information is available at mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.