With boating season just around the corner, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission’s Boating Program reminds boaters to be safe, know the law and always wear life jackets when boating.
Each year, a majority of boating deaths are a result of drowning, and a majority of these victims are not wearing life jackets. In 2010, there were 18 boating fatalities in Washington state. Reports have shown that many boating accidents are preventable, and by wearing a life jacket, boaters increase their chances of survival. The Boating Program reminds boaters of the following laws and recommends these safety tips:
Wear approved life jackets: State law requires all vessels (including non-motorized watercraft) carry at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board. Additionally, vessels 16 feet or longer must have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable personal flotation device aboard. Life jackets must be worn by those on personal watercraft (such as jet skis) and water skiers. Children ages 12 and younger must wear life jackets when aboard vessels less than 19 feet long.
Check life jackets: Ensure all life jackets are in good condition. Check for tears, wear and proper fit. Life jacket sizing is based on body weight and chest size, and children often grow out of their life jackets from season to season.
Life jacket loaner program: If boaters do not have the required number of life jackets aboard their vessels, life jackets are available for loan at many boat launches, marinas and state parks across Washington. These life jackets are available for the day or weekend use at no cost.
Boating clubs, public safety agencies and other civic organizations that are interested in establishing a life jacket loaner site at a public boat launch or marina should contact Washington State Parks at (360) 902-8555 for assistance. State Parks has limited funding to provide life jackets and materials at no cost to help establish a public loaner site in time for boating season.
Marine law enforcement agencies around the state recognize that life jackets can and do save lives and many have adopted a zero-tolerance approach for boats without sufficient life jackets. A citation may be issued to the operator of a boat with too few life jackets on board.
For information about boating safety and the life jacket loaner program, visit online at www.parks.wa.gov/boating or call (360) 902-8555.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission thanks the public for supporting state parks. Donations made to State Parks through the vehicle license tab renewal program will keep state parks open in the 2009-2011 budget cycle, provided adequate revenues are collected. The Commission manages a diverse system of more than 100 state parks and recreation programs, including long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. The 98-year-old park system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.
Washington State Parks is now on Twitter at WaStatePks_NEWS and YouTube at WashingtonStateParks.