OLYMPIA – May 16, 2023 – Recreational boating is a popular pastime in Washington. In fact, nearly 225,000 vessels were registered in 2023. When you include Washington residents who own at least one canoe, kayak, rowboat, or stand-up paddle board, boats and boaters are everywhere!
That’s why every May, the Washington State Parks Recreational Boating Safety Program promotes the National Safe Boating Week campaign to remind people about the importance of safe boating. Boating is not without risk. The chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest can be unforgiving, and safety must be on the minds of everyone who plays in and around Washington’s waterways.
National Safe Boating Week takes place from May 19 to 26 and is coordinated each year by the National Safe Boating Council and boating safety partners across the United States and Canada. The campaign gives boaters tools to make responsible decisions daily, such as always wearing a life jacket, carrying the right equipment, and never boating under the influence.
The week will kick off on May 19 with Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day. This is a fun occasion where people can normalize life jacket wear by sporting theirs at their workplace or in virtual meetings, sharing photos and connecting on social media using #WearYourLifeJacketToWorkDay.
These safety reminders are more important than ever. According to Washington’s recreational boating accident data, in 2022:
- 18 people lost their lives in a fatal accident, including two missing boaters.
- 55% of those fatal accidents occurred on human powered watercraft.
- Only one person had a boater education card.
- 83% of victims were not wearing a life jacket.
- Five fatalities were confirmed to have involved alcohol or drugs.
- The oldest victim was age 77 and the youngest was 6.
Tips for Boating Safety
- Get educated. All boaters and paddlers are responsible for knowing the laws and keeping themselves and others safe.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Washington state’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts.
- Bring communication devices. Boaters should carry two forms of communication that will work when wet, such as a whistle, waterproof cell phone or Marine radio.
- 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.
- Beware of cold-water shock. The biggest risk is not hypothermia, its cold-water shock, which occurs in the first stage of immersion. Boaters need to take caution and prepare themselves by always wearing a life jacket.
- Use an engine cut-off switch. Boaters are encouraged to use their engine cut-off switch every time they go boating.
For more information on boating safety, and other resources to promote Safe Boating Week, visit https://www.parks.wa.gov/435/Boating.
News media contact:
Ashley Seydel, Boating Program Communications Consultant
About the Boating Program
The Washington State Parks Boating Program administers several programs to keep boaters safe and informed of applicable regulations. In addition to Recreational Boating Safety, the Boating Program trains and certifies Marine Law Enforcement programs across the state and administers the Clean Vessel Act to fund pumpout stations that keep Washington waters clean.
News release number: 23-014