Spring boating has risks

The King County Sheriff’s Office is reminding residents to be safe in the water as the temperatures begin to rise and more people are in the water.

Spring is here and as the weather warms up, more people will be taking to the water for recreation. As a reminder, the King County Sheriff’s Office warns that as water recreation increases, so will potential drownings.

Paddle craft, which include fishing rowboats, account for most of the fatal boating accidents in Washington state.

For many years, power boats were the leaders in fatality accidents; however, with the new push on outdoor recreation, most boating deaths occur in human-powered vessels.

“U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are the best way to prevent drowning during water recreation,” said King County Sheriff Marine Sergeant James Knauss.

Each life jacket will have printing (a label) on the inside back panel stating “Coast Guard Approved.” Overloading is another common problem on waterways. Large boats have placards that show “vessel capacity,” which indicates the number of people that can be on board and/or the total weight limit. If either of the two limits established by the manufacturer are exceeded, there is a violation.

You can’t add the two together or choose which to follow. For example, if the boat says two people, then three people on board is a violation, even if the weight is still under the limit. Likewise, if you have two on board but exceed the weight, it is still a violation. Most two-person boats cannot support two “healthy” adult males. Dogs in the water have also contributed to drownings in the last couple of years, specifically on rivers. If your dog is in the water and appears to be swept away by the current, do not go in after them. Dogs usually find their way to shore on their own. Drownings can be prevented with a little common sense.

Wear a life jacket, don’t overload your boat and remember the water is cold, which can quickly lead to hypothermia.


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