With the busy Labor Day holiday weekend ahead, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program reminds all boaters, especially personal water craft (PWC) users, to wear a life jacket when on the water.
So far in 2011, there have been 13 boating fatalities in Washington. Only one of these boaters is known to have been wearing a life jacket.
Washington state boating statistics for 2005 through 2011 show more than 80 percent of all 155 fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
Like seatbelts, life jackets only work when worn properly. Once a person is in the water, there may not be time to find and put on a life jacket, especially in cold, rough water. And, boaters using PWCs are required by law to wear a life jacket.
“These vessels make quick turns, and boaters operating PWCs are looking for adventure that involves zipping around and are likely to end up in the water,” said Lt. Marc Olson of the Seattle Police Department Harbor Unit. “If you’re thrown off a PWC, you may get hurt, inhale water or be incapacitated by the shock of cold water. Any of these things can cause even a strong swimmer to struggle and drown. That is why life jackets are required.”
In addition to PWCs users, wakeboarders and people on all other towing devices, children 12 years old and younger also are required to wear life jackets. The law also requires a life jacket be carried for every person aboard any boat.
“The waters in the Pacific Northwest are deceptively cold and any boater can end up in the water struggling to stay alive. Life jackets are designed to bring the user to the surface and help them self-rescue,” said Lake Stevens Police Chief and Boating Safety Council Chair Randy Celori.
While safety is the most important reason for wearing a life jacket, violators of the requirements also face fines ranging from $87 to $138.
“Considering the widespread recognition of the life jacket laws and the grave consequences of disregarding these laws, we encourage zero tolerance for offenders. Life jackets are not only required by law, but they are life savers,” stated State Parks Boating Law Enforcement Coordinator Mark Kenny.
For more information on PWC safety and laws, visit www.boat.wa.gov or call 360-902-8555.