Safe Boating Is No Accident

CPW Staff and Volunteer celebrate "Take Your Life Jacket to Work Day."
CPW Staff and Volunteer celebrate “Take Your Life Jacket to Work Day.” Photo by © Mike DelliVeneri/CPW.

Summer’s first big holiday weekend is rapidly approaching. In Colorado, that means ice out at many mountain lakes, boat ramps opening for the season and people all around the state preparing to head to local waters for everything from fishing, kayaking and rafting to stand up paddleboarding (SUP). And while enjoying the outdoors is part of our way of life, it’s important to remember a couple of safety tips that will keep you, your friends and your family safe on the water this season.

A Life Jacket Fit for Your Lifestyle

Wear It!

Most boaters know they’re required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket (also called a personal flotation device or PFD) on board for every person on their boat. And boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but wear it at all times. Life jackets have come a long way from the stiff foam blocks wrapped in orange that many of us remember. Today, there are a wide variety of specialized life jackets that offer a great match for any water-related recreation. The following video will walk you through five different types of life jackets and highlight the pros and cons of each to simplify your next life jacket purchase.

Three Fit Facts

  1. Choose a life jacket that fits properly.
  2. Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
  3. Life jackets that are too small may not be able to keep your body afloat.

No matter what activity you are participating in or what style you choose, the most important thing is this: Remember to be responsible and always wear your life jacket while on the water.

Wear It!

Now for the scary statistics: Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. And sadly, drowning is the reported cause of death in 76 percent of all boating fatalities; in 2017, 84.5 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket.

No one plans to have an accident. The following video shows how quickly boating accidents can happen. Two brothers are heading out fishing when an unexpected mechanical failure results in a close call boating accident.

It’s the Law

Children 13 years of age and under are required to wear a life jacket whenever they are on the water, except when they are in an enclosed cabin or below deck. No matter the type of watercraft, there must be a life jacket on board for each person. This also applies to paddleboards, sailboats, canoes and any other type of watercraft.

Have a Safe and Fun Boating Season!

Safety on the water is crucial during the boating season and Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants boaters to be prepared for the summer season ahead. With an above average snowpack this season, high water levels are anticipated across the state and may lead to hazardous conditions. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and there is never a reason to not follow safety guidelines while boating. Keep it simple – if you’re on the water, Wear It!

For more information about life jackets and boating safety, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

National Safe Boating Week
May 18-24 is National Safe Boating Week and Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds boaters to think “safety first” when out on the water this season. This designated week kicks off this year’s Safe Boating Campaign, reminding people to always wear a life jacket and boat responsibly. Visit safeboatingcampaign.com to learn more about the Wear It! Campaign.


Written by Doug Skinner. Skinner is an editor for Colorado Outdoors Online and is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

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