OLYMPIA – May 7, 2018 – It’s no accident that National Safe Boating Week coincides with the beginning of boating and fishing seasons. During this year’s campaign, May 19 through 25, the Washington State Parks Boating Program will increase its emphasis on boating safety while encouraging people to have fun on Washington’s beautiful waters.
“Of course, we are concerned about boating safety all year long,” said Wade Alonzo, 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.”
Why is boating safety so important? While boating accidents and fatalities are gradually decreasing, there is still room for improvement. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that human error accounts for 70 percent of all boating accidents, and wearing a life jacket could prevent more than 80 percent of boating fatalities. So far this year, five people have died in Washington state from boating-related accidents. Last year, 109 boating accidents were reported with 15 fatalities and 51 injuries. Of the 15 fatalities, 73 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket.
National Safe Boating Week is coordinated each year by the National Safe Boating Council and its boating safety partners across the U.S. and Canada.
“Safe boating begins with preparation,” Alonzo added. “Through basic boating safety behaviors, boaters can help keep Washington’s coastal, inland and offshore waters safe for everyone.”
The Boating Program recommends the following safety tips for boaters:
Many recreational boaters in Washington are required to complete an approved boating safety education course and carry a Washington State Boater Education Card. Even if carrying a card is not required, the Boating Program recommends people take a boating safety course to increase their knowledge about boating safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules. More information about boater education: www.boatered.org.
Always wear a life jacket
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. And all children, age 12 and younger, are required to wear one at all times. The Boating Program encourages boaters to wear their life jackets every time they go out on the water. More about life jackets: www.wearitwashington.org.
Bring communication devices
Boaters should carry two forms of communication that will work when wet, such as a whistle, waterproof cell phone and/or VHF marine radio. Also recommended are flares, a signal mirror or air horn to aid emergency responders in search efforts. Boaters should also consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB). More on communications devices: http://bit.ly/boat_comm.
Avoid alcohol and drugs
Boat owners and/or operators are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of everyone on board. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, is not only unsafe—it’s illegal. The Boating Program recommends designating a sober skipper. Washington state’sBoating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts. More about boating sober: www.boatsober.org.
Check and understand the weather
Boaters should check the weather frequently before and during their boating excursion, keeping an eye on current conditions and forecasts. Boaters should be especially concerned with warnings, weather conditions, wind and wave forecasts and tide and current conditions. Learn more: http://bit.ly/boating_wx
Protect against cold-water shock
Falling into water under 60 degrees is dangerous, and many of Washington’s waters remain below 60 degrees all year—including lakes and rivers—even during hot weather. The biggest risk is not hypothermia, it is cold-water shock, which occurs in the first stage of immersion. Learn more: www.coldwatersafety.org
Schedule a vessel safety check
Local marine law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliaryand United States Power Squadrons have certified vessel examiners who will perform a free vessel safety check at no cost. Learn more and schedule a vessel safety check here: www.cgaux.org/vsc/.
Engage with social media
People can learn more about and participate in the National Safe Boating Week campaign through social media by using one or more of the following hashtags: #SafeBoating #BoatPrepared #WearItWA #SafePaddling #Lifejackets.
About the Washington State Boating Program
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission administers the state’s Boating Program, which provides leadership in boating safety and environmental education and outreach. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of Washington waterways, and keep recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime. For more information on the Boating Program, visit www.parks.wa.gov/boating.
About Washington State Parks
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.
Follow Washington State Parks:
Share your favorite state park adventure on the State Parks’ blog site at http://adventureawaits.com/
Support state parks by purchasing your annual Discover Pass today, and enjoy a whole year of outdoor fun on Washington’s beautiful state-managed recreation lands. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov.
Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission
1111 Israel Road S.W.
P.O. Box 42650
Olympia, WA 98504-2650