A safe boating public awareness campaign held annually in May serves as a good reminder for boaters heading into summer.
National Safe Boating Week is May 22-28, with the campaign actually kicking off May 21 with Wear Your Life Jacket at Work Day. Water recreationists are encouraged to snap a picture while at work and share it on social media with the hashtags #lifejacket2work and #safeboating.
A boat should have enough U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets on board for all passengers. North Dakota law requires all children ages 10 and younger to wear a personal flotation device while in boats of less than 27 feet in length. The law also requires all personal watercraft users to wear a life jacket, as well as anyone towed on skis, tubes, boards or other similar devices. However, state law allows an individual who is at least 16 years of age to windsurf or boardsail without wearing a PFD.
Water users should make sure to wear life jackets that are the appropriate size and in good condition. Failure to wear a personal flotation device is the main reason people lose their lives in water recreation accidents.
Water skiers and tubers should wear a life jacket with four nylon straps rather than one with a zipper, because straps are stronger than zippers upon impact with water. Anglers and people paddling a canoe, kayak or paddleboard should opt for a PFD that is comfortable enough to wear for an entire outing.
It is also important that children wear a PFD while swimming. Swimmers should know the water’s depth, as serious injuries can occur from diving. Large objects hidden below the water’s surface can lead to significant injury.
North Dakota boaters also are reminded that marine VHF radios are an important part of boat safety that should not be improperly used by operators. These radios are intended for boat operators who are in distress and facing an emergency situation.
Regulations to help ensure safe boating this summer are found in the North Dakota Boat and Water Safety Guide.