Think about it — you have clearly marked roadways to follow, complete with lines that let you know whether you need to stay in your lane or if you’re allowed to pass. You’ve got stop signs, traffic signals and signs every few feet letting you know what’s expected of you as you sit behind the wheel.
Plus, everyone on the road has completed a driver's training course, learning the rules of the road.
Driving a boat, on the other hand, now that takes some know-how. On the water, there are no clear paths to follow, no stop signs, yields or merges.
Sure, it’s generally expected that, in a river, you keep to the right side; and on a lake, you follow the shoreline in a counter-clockwise direction. But, other than that, boats are free to crisscross paths as they wish.
Making this more difficult is the fact that, on many bodies of water, these boats are pulling skiers, tubers or wakeboarders.
Throw in personal watercraft that zip back and forth unchecked, along with dozens of fishing boats dotting the horizon, and operating a boat — especially at high speeds — becomes a task that requires intense concentration.
Each summer, on lakes across West Michigan, we hear of tragic stories in which people are injured or killed, or boats totaled, because of negligent driving.
Part of the problem is alcohol. We’re constantly reminded of the perils of drinking and driving when it comes to cars, but what about boats?
It’s a fairly safe bet that a high percentage of those operating boats on a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon have had at least one beer, if not a few.
It doesn’t take much to pass the legal limit blood-alcohol level in Michigan, meaning many of these powerboat operators are driving drunk. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
We all know it’s a good idea to have a designated driver on the roads. The same holds true on the water.
When you’re out on the water for a festive time with family and friends, be sure someone abstains from drinking, and be sure that someone is capable of driving the vessel.
Getting behind the wheel of a boat can be a lot of fun, but if the proper precautions aren’t met, it can also lead to tragedy.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to email@example.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.