The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is joining with the National Safe Boating Council to promote National Safe Boating Week and the importance of wearing a life vest. This year, National Safe Boating Week is May 19-25. (see Governor’s proclamation here.)
In 2010, drowning was the reported cause of death in almost three-fourths of all boating fatalities, according to the National Safe Boating Council. Of those, 88 percent were reported as not wearing a personal flotation device, better known as a PFD or life vest.
“Wearing a life vest is one of the most effective and simplest life-saving strategies for safe boating,” said Maj. Chris Huebner, who is the Wildlife Commission’s state boating safety coordinator. “Life vests are no longer the bulky, cumbersome models of years past.
“Knowing what options are available and what model works best for you — then wearing it — can mean the difference between life and death.”
Both state and federal regulations require that a Type I, II or III personal flotation device in good condition and of appropriate size be accessible for each person onboard a recreational vessel, including canoes, kayaks, rowboats and other non-motorized craft. Sailboards, racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes and racing kayaks are exempt from this requirement.
North Carolina law requires children younger than 13 to wear an appropriate life vest whenever they are on a recreational vessel that is under way. It must be U.S. Coast Guard approved and be a proper fit, with youth sizes corresponding to weight. The law also requires all personal watercraft riders and passengers, and anyone being towed by a personal watercraft wear life vests.
“Accidents happen quickly,” Maj. Huebner said. “Too often, there isn’t time or you are unable to find a life vest and put it on.”
North Carolina requires all boaters be in compliance with the boating safety education requirement law. Anyone younger than 26, operating a vessel powered by a 10-horsepower or greater motor, must have completed successfully an approved boating safety course or otherwise be exempt.
There are more than 200 sworn, full-time wildlife officers across the state with arrest authority for any criminal offense committed in their presence, including state and federal violations. They enforce hunting, trapping and inland fishing regulations and boating laws to protect the resources of the state and the safety of its citizens. The public can assist them by reporting wildlife violations to 1-800-662-7137.