Recreational boaters, particularly paddlers, are increasingly ignoring Washington’s law that requires a personal flotation device on board a vessel, according to a July 7 statement released by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
In Washington, individuals operating water crafts – including stand up paddle boards, kayaks and canoes – must have personal flotation devices, such as a life jacket, on board for each person on the vessel. Life jackets must be in serviceable condition, of appropriate size and easily accessible and children under age 12 must wear them at all times if the vessel exceeds 19 feet in length.
Inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards and small rafts or toys do not require life jackets.
“All of the recreational boating safety deputies in our office believe their mission on the water is to ensure that everyone is safe in their boating experience,” said recreational boating safety coordinator deputy Michael King.
“We recognize that boaters are on the lake to have fun and that our inspections can be a nuisance, but more often than not, we are thanked for being on the water. None of our deputies want to write an infraction for a life jacket violation, but it is unfortunately a necessary part of the job and our primary mission and focus is safety on the water.”
According to the statement, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office has issued several warnings for violations and added, “the practice may have to change to further educate the boating public.”