Zero-tolerance policy planned for 2008 boating season

Kansas boaters are advised to pay special attention to life jacket requirements this boating season, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP).

“We plan to take a zero-tolerance approach to life jacket violations this year,” said Dan Hesket, KDWP boating law administrator. “Our sole purpose is to reduce fatalities on our waters and create a safer environment for all boaters.”

More than 90 percent of boating-related fatalities in the U. S. in 2006 were drowning victims who were not wearing a life jacket. Kansas law requires that each vessel be equipped with a proper life jacket, also known as a personal flotation device (PFD), for each person on board.

“The life jacket should be in sound condition without rips or tears and of the proper size for the individual intended to wear it,” Hesket added. In addition, Kansas law requires that children 12 years old and younger wear a life jacket while on board any vessel. Also, any occupant of a personal watercraft, regardless of age, must wear one. Kansas law also requires that PFDs be readily accessible for each passenger on board.

“For a life jacket to be accessible, it must be in open view and not stowed in locked or closed compartments or be contained in plastic or other packaging material,” Hesket explained. "Failure to have life jackets readily accessible is the most common PFD-related violation in Kansas.

“In an accident, it can take very little time for a vessel to sink," Heskett added. "For this reason, it is important for the occupants to have their life jackets accessible, at minimum. But we highly recommend that all boat occupants wear them when on the water, whether required by law or not.”