Fireworks, good food and spending time outdoors are on the menu for many Kansans this Independence Day weekend. As such, state lakes and reservoirs will be filled with boaters taking advantage of the long weekend to relax on the water. Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely trip on a pontoon boat or paddling solo on a kayak, here are some tips to ensure your time on the water is safe and enjoyable.
Always wear a life jacket. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of five recreational boating fatalities in 2018 – approximately 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
Kansas law states that youth age 12 and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while boating. And while life jackets are not required for boaters age 13 and older, one must be readily accessible for each person on the vessel – regardless of age, and including those on kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards.
“The idea that your kayak should never leave shore without a life jacket in it isn’t just a suggestion – it’s the law,” Chelsea Hofmeier, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) boating education coordinator, said. “That lifesaving piece of equipment is intended to keep boaters afloat if they unexpectedly end up in the water, which happens to novice and seasoned paddlers all too often. The best thing Kansans can do is simply wear it.”
Leave alcohol on shore. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In 2018, alcohol use contributed to 19 percent of boating accident related deaths across the U.S.
While it is not illegal to have or consume alcohol on a boat in Kansas, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. To help keep boaters safe this holiday weekend, KDWPT game wardens are increasing patrols to watch for those boating under the influence (BUI). The increased patrols are part of a national campaign – Operation Dry Water – to reduce accidents and fatalities related to BUI, and educate recreational boaters about the dangers of BUI. Those caught operating a vessel while impaired can expect to be arrested or face other serious penalties.
Take a boating education course. Operator inattention, inexperience and improper lookout are among the top contributing factors in boating accidents. Be better prepared by taking a boating education course prior to operating a vessel.
The Kansas Boater Safety Education course is offered through a home study packet, in-person, and online. In Kansas, the course is required for any person under the age of 21 who wishes to operate a vessel propelled by a motor or sail without direct and audible supervision. For more information on this course, visit https://ksoutdoors.com/Boating/Boating-Education/Certification-Options.
Don’t ruin a good time by making poor choices this holiday weekend; boat safe and boat smart.