State Parks reminds boaters to be safe at Seattle Seafair

Seafair is this weekend, and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission encourages all boaters to boat responsibly.

Seafair is this weekend, and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission encourages all boaters to boat responsibly.

Just as with driving a car, using alcohol while boating can impair critical senses needed to avoid boating accidents. Alcohol slows reaction time and diminishes decision-making abilities, leading to boating accidents and fatalities.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s 2011 recreational boating statistics showed a total of 758 boating fatalities, the highest on record since 1998. Alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in these fatal accidents and was the primary contributing factor in 19 percent of boating deaths.

Washington State Parks Boating Programs reports from 2007 to 2011 show at least 30 people were killed in boating accidents where alcohol was a contributing factor. Washington ranked among the top five highest states in the nation for the total number of alcohol-related boating deaths according to the 2011 Coast Guard’s boating statistics.

King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Charlie Akers states: “It’s easy to get caught up in the festivities, but don’t let the excitement of being out on the water during Seafair deter you from your responsibilities. Always be alert and prepared for the safety of your passengers and for others on the water – and most importantly, don’t drink and operate a boat.”

During Seafair, local authorities will be out on the water enforcing Washington’s boating under the influence (BUI) laws. Boat operators may be cited and/or arrested and escorted off the water if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds the state limit of .08. Several law enforcement agencies will be conducting BUI patrols during Seafair, where the boating traffic makes safe boat operation a must.

Boaters should consider the following tips:

  • Designate an operator. Do not drink and operate a boat. Intoxicated passengers also are at risk of serious injury and falling overboard so having no alcohol aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water.
  • Take a boating safety course and get the Washington Boater Education Card. Visit online at for course listings and directions on how to get the card.
  • Wear a life jacket. Children 12 years of age and younger are required by law to wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket while onboard a boat 19 feet or less, but it’s recommended that everyone, including adults and strong swimmers wear a life jacket. You never know when you’ll need it to save your life.
  • Do not overload your boat with people or equipment. Check the capacity plate for the maximum weight or the maximum number of people the boat can safely carry.
  • Watch your speed. Slow down in adverse conditions so that if you are in danger of collision, you can stop or turn away before it happens.

For additional information on boating in Washington, visit or call (360) 902-8555.

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The Commission manages a diverse system of more than 100 state parks and recreation programs, including long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. The 99-year-old park system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.

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