Safety key to successful holiday on packed lakes

To ensure enjoyable summer outings, boaters are reminded that life jackets play an important role in keeping them safe in the water. In 2005, approximately 70 percent of all boating fatalities were drownings. Approximately 87 percent of those who drowned were not wearing 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, few choose to wear them if they are not required by boating law. In Kansas, anyone younger than 13 is required 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 the requirement.

Life jackets, like seat belts in cars, must be worn to save lives. There are many excuses given for not wearing life jackets: it’s too hot; it’s uncomfortable; it doesn’t make me look cool. But life jackets are no longer the orange, hot, bulky vests commonly thought of. New developments have produced a smaller, sleeker, and more comfortable life jacket, leaving boaters with no reason not to wear them.

This year, visitors to state parks will notice yellow signs posted at boat ramps with a simple message: "Wear It.” Make this a safe boating season and remember to practice safe and responsible boating. Always wear a life jacket, and be alert and aware while on the water. By practicing these simple steps, boaters enjoy a safe holiday weekend.