Parks program encourages boaters to stay safe

Before recreational boaters take off for the spring season, representatives with the Washington State Parks Boating Program are offering lessons on how to prevent accidents and respond to emergencies.

The educational outreach aligns with National Safe Boating Week, which takes place on Saturday, May 19 through Friday, May 25, just as the spring boating and fishing season begins. The campaign is driven by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the National Safe Boating Council.

According to the press release, out of 109 boating accidents reported in Washington last year, 51 resulted in injury and 15 resulted in death; 73 percent of the reported deaths were due to not wearing a life jacket. So far this year, five people have died in boating accidents in Washington.

Here are a few tips from the boating program:

• Take a boating safety class. Education shouldn’t stop after you get your Washington state boater education card. See what educational opportunities are available by visiting bit.ly/2wkKl7Y.

•  Always wear a life jacket. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, wearing a life jacket could prevent 80 percent of all boating fatalities.

• Have two means of communication on board, such as a waterproof cellphone and a VHF marine radio. Flares, personal locater beacons and other communications devices are also recommended.

•  Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is against the law. Consider choosing a designated skipper.

• Frequently check the forecast to avoid sudden storms.

• Be cautious when taking a leap into your favorite swimming hole. Most water in Washington remains below 60 degrees throughout the year, which can be dangerous and cause hypothermia.

•  Get a free vessel check from a member of the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Power Squadron.

To learn more about the Washington State Parks Boating Program, visit bit.ly/2K47JZj.

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