Boating deaths drop in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. – Lower water levels, fewer boaters on its lakes and increased safety education combined to help Michigan reduce its number of boating deaths in 2003 to 29 – the state's lowest total since 1999, according to a recent story in the Lansing State Journal.

There were 957,454 boats registered last year in Michigan – a six-year low, and 4.7 percent fewer than the roughly 1 million the previous year, the newspaper reported.

"Boating is a luxury," said Jack Hohnke, manager of Boater's World Marine Center in Pontiac. "It's an expensive sport with a short season, and in this state, the economy's not great. It's OK, but it's not great."

And lower water levels in Michigan lakes may have also contributed to the fewer number of boaters, as Lake St. Clair averaged 10 to 13 inches below normal in 2003, and Lake Michigan is still down about 17 inches below its normal, the State Journal said.

The newspaper reported that a fourth of Michigan's accidents occurred on the Great Lakes, nearly half on inland lakes and 80 percent during June, July and August, with the most common type of accidental death coming from either falling overboard or capsizing.

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