It’s no accident that the National Safe Boating Week campaign coincides with the beginning of boating and fishing seasons. During this year’s campaign, May 18 through 24, the Washington state Parks Boating Program will increase its emphasis on recreational boating safety while encouraging people to have fun on Washington’s beautiful waters.
“Boating safety is important twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year,” said Rob Sendak, State Parks Boating Program Manager. “But we find that on-the-water accidents and fatalities increase as the weather warms up and more people get out on the water.”
Last year, there were 103 reported boating accidents with 21 fatalities and 57 injuries. Over 70 percent of those accidents happened between May and August. According to Washington’s recreational boating accident data, that trend is reflected in accident data from the last five years.
“Safe boating begins with preparation,” Sendak added. “Through basic boating safety behaviors, boaters can help keep Washington’s waterways safe for everyone this summer and year-round.”
Many recreational boaters in Washington are required to complete an approved boating safety education course and carry a Washington state Boater Education Card. All boaters and paddlers are responsible for knowing the laws and keeping themselves and others safe. Even if carrying a card is not required, the Boating Program recommends people take a boating safety course to increase their knowledge of safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules. More information about boater education visit boatered.org.
Local marine law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons have certified vessel examiners who will perform a free “vessel safety check.” These checks are conducted at a boat ramp, dockside or at other predetermined locations. These checks take 15 to 30 minutes. There is no charge and no consequences for not passing. The agencies will provide a written report on how to correct any discrepancies. Boats passing the safety check receive a decal indicating the boat is in full compliance with federal and state boating laws. Learn more and schedule a vessel safety check by visiting cgaux.org/vsc/.
State law requires all vessels, including canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to have at least one properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard. All children, age 12 and younger are always required to wear one.
The Boating Program encourages boaters to wear their life jackets every time they go out on the water. Life jackets are now much more sophisticated, comfortable and tailored for specific water activities. More about life jackets can be found at wearitwashington.org.
Boaters should carry two forms of communication that will work when wet, such as a whistle, waterproof cell phone or VHF marine radio. These devices greatly increase the chance of being located in an emergency. Also recommended are flares, a signal mirror and an air horn to aid emergency responders in search efforts. Boaters should also consider carrying a personal locator beacon, which instantly notifies responders of their location when activated. More on communications devices can be found at bit.ly/boat.com.