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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 30, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Spread the word on life jacket safety as the weather warms up

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Spring is in the air and many will start getting their boats on the local waterways, and with that 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.

Last year, there were 18 boating fatalities in Washington.

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 nonmotorized 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.

The BoatUS Foundation also offers a life jacket loaner program. For more information visit the BoatUS website.

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, call 360-902-855 or visit the Washington State Parks website.

(Photo by Harley Soltes, former Seattle Times staff photographer)

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