By Meg Peters
The National Weather Service has called for an 80 degree weekend coming up for Memorial Day, which means one thing: Lake Orion — the lake — is going to be active.
Oakland County Lieutenant Dan Toth, former Marine Deputy, said Memorial Day weekend is typically the weekend that kicks off the boat activity on the many lakes of Orion Township, and that boaters must be aware of all the current regulations and safety tips.
First and foremost, everyone born after June 30, 1996 must have a boater safety certificate on hand to operate a watercraft in Michigan, including lakes in Orion Township.
For personal water crafts, or PWCs such as jet skis, the requirement is a bit stricter. Everyone born after Dec. 31, 1978, must carry a boater safety certificate to operate PWCs in Michigan.
Lieutenant Toth also said “everyone will benefit from a boating class.”
And young captains are in luck.
This Saturday, May 28, Orion Township and the Oakland County Sheriff Office are partnering with the Lake Orion Boat Club to host a Boater Safety Class free to Orion Township residents.
The class is limited to 30 participants and only the first 30 people who call Pam at the Orion Substation at248-393-0090 will get a spot.
The class starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.
A free shuttle will be offered starting at 8 a.m. to boat out to the Lake Orion Boat Club. Drive to the out-let of the boat club at 310 Heights Rd. and call 248-693-2900 at 8 a.m. to request the shuttle.
Another boater’s safety class that is free for Orion residents will be at the same time on June 4 at Fire Station #2 at 3801 Giddings Rd., in Orion Township.
According to a report by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division, Oakland County leads the state in the number of registered boats, shoreline and lakes.
Toth said most water related deaths can be avoided by following the regulated boater and water safety tips.
He was the officer who informed Rochester Hills resident Jan Iserman that her daughter died after a PWC accident in 2005 on Long Lake in Orion Township.
Iserman’s daughter, Ashleigh, was 17 when she was towing a tuber behind the wave runner. Ashleigh did not have her boater’s safety certificate, and had looked away momentarily to check on the tuber when she crashed into a boat and died instantly.
“You never know when you’re out there how prepared everyone is, or if they are certified,” Iserman said. “The biggest thing for me was that someone that was a seasoned boater allowed someone to operate a PWC without asking if they were certified, and tragically she died after her first and only experience.”
Since her death, Iserman has taken it upon herself to educate the public about the importance of acquiring the correct certification to operate PWCs and watercraft. In 2011 she convinced lawmakers to pass the Ashleigh Iserman Law which required that all operators of PWCs be at least 16 years old, two years older than the required age of 14 in previous laws.
Iserman said operating a PWC is unique in that they are the only water vessel where the cause of death is not due to drowning, but instead by the force of impact.
“She hit a boat and was killed instantly, that’s why they are so dangerous. The force of impact is measured in tons, not even in pounds, and going as slow as 30 mph, so not even a high speed,” she said.
“Our mission is to educate people to get certified but be aware of your surroundings and who you are letting use your equipment,” Iserman said. “We want people to enjoy the experience but we really want them to come back alive.”
Toth said all boaters and PWC operators must be aware of the following safety tips:
-Take a boating safety class and understand the basic rules of the waterway.
-Make sure everyone on your boat wears a PFD (personal flotation device) or life vest and remains seated while underway.
-Avoid alcohol consumption on the water.
-Always use due care and caution and do not over-drive your vessel.
-Only swim in areas supervised by trained lifeguards.
-Always observe your children within a few feet.
-Do not dive headfirst into any body of water.
-Never swim alone.
-Take a swimming/boating safety class.
Did you know?
-Over 80 percent of all accidents and deaths on the water are attributed to reckless operation, alcohol, and/or not wearing a life vest.
-63 percent of all people who drown never intended to be in the water.
-70 percent of people whose boats have capsized, or people who have fallen over board, drown and 85 percent of those people have PFDs on board but are not wearing them.
-Drownings are the third leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, and it is the second leading cause of accidental death in people ages 11 to 44.
-It takes only 20 to 60 seconds for a struggling victim to drown. Drowning victims normally are not able to call or wave for help, and it may appear as if they are playing..
By Meg Peters