BOATING SAFETY REMINDER FOR LABOR DAY WEEKEND
August 28, 2014
Safety key to successful holiday on busy lakes
PRATT – Labor Day weekend is the last big outdoor holiday at Kansas lakes, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) reminds boaters that being safe on the water is key to an enjoyable weekend. Overall, boating is a very safe outdoor pursuit, but it only takes one small mistake or oversight for a fun day on the water to turn tragic.
Being safe on the water isn’t complicated. By following regulations and a few common-sense rules, boat operators can ensure that everyone in their party stays safe. The first rule is to have everyone onboard wear a life jacket. Accidents can happen quickly, anyplace or anytime on the water. Although every boat must have a life jacket on board for every person on the boat, Kansas law only requires those age 12 and younger to wear a life jacket at all times while on a boat. Those 13 and older are not required to wear a life jacket but must have one available that is easily accessible and fits properly. "Easily accessible" means the jackets must be within reach and in plain view. Life jackets stowed under seats or in storage compartments do not meet this requirement.
Life jackets, like seat belts in cars, must be worn to save lives. There are many excuses given for not wearing life jackets, but life jackets are no longer the orange, hot, bulky vests commonly thought of. New developments have produced smaller, sleeker, and more comfortable life jackets, leaving boaters with no reason not to wear them.
Another common sense safety rule on the water is to avoid alcohol or have a designated boat driver. Alcohol affects a person’s judgment and reflexes, and a high percentage of boating accidents are alcohol-related. And being outdoors on a warm sunny day exacerbates the effects of alcohol. KDWPT boating enforcement officers will be on the lookout for impaired boat operators. Operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is against Kansas state law. Anyone caught operating a boat under the influence can have their vessel impounded and incur penalties including arrest, fines, and loss of boating privileges.
And finally, several recent incidents on Kansas lakes put boaters in danger unnecessarily. While it falls under “use common sense,” individuals were “lost” after being left to float on a large reservoir. Both had floatation devices and both survived, but it could have been worse. Never leave anyone floating in open water outside of designated swimming areas. Wave action can make a solitary swimmer almost impossible to see for other boaters and hard to find for anyone looking for them.
This Labor Day, have fun, stay safe and “Wear It Kansas.”