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State Parks stresses boating safety through education

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

With rising temperatures and more than one month of summer remaining, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission urges boating enthusiasts to be safe while enjoying the water. Getting a Boater Safety Education Card helps reduce boating-related accidents and fatalities.

Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy boating on Washington’s waterways every year. Unfortunately, Washington has one of the highest boating fatality rates in the nation. Since 2003, there have been 234 boating-related deaths in the state, with 11 so far this year as of the end of July.

“Boating education is critical to boating safety,” said Wade Alonzo, Boating Program manager for Washington State Parks. “The more boaters know, the safer they will be — not only for themselves, but for their fellow boaters as well.”
The law requires boaters to carry a boater education card when operating a boat with 15 horsepower or greater on Washington’s waterways. To obtain a card, boaters must successfully complete an approved boating safety course and submit an application to get the card.

This year, boat operators ages 12 to 59 are required to carry a boater education card. The requirement applies to boaters born on or after Jan. 1, 1955. Boaters born before Jan. 1, 1955, are exempt from this law. To meet the new education requirements, boaters can take a course online or in a classroom, or they can take the State Parks Adventures in Boating Washington home study course. Cards cost $10 and are good for a lifetime.

To find an online exam or get more information about the state’s Mandatory Boating Safety Education Program, visit: www.parks.wa.gov/442/Mandatory-Boater-Education or call (360) 902-8555.

The State Parks Boating Program offers the following water safety tips for this boating season:

• Always wear a life jacket. Statistics show time and time again that many boating fatalities could have been avoided by wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket while boating is like wearing a seat belt when driving or riding in a vehicle. Simply put: Life jackets save lives. Boaters should always wear one anytime they are on the water.

• Be prepared — take a boating safety course. Drivers are required to take a driver’s education course before getting a license. Statistics show that 70 percent of boating fatalities occur on vessels where the operator had never taken a boating safety course.

• Get a free vessel safety check (VSC). Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. Boaters can request a free VSC by visiting www.safetyseal.net and clicking on “I WANT A VSC.”

• Avoid alcohol while on or near the water. Approximately one-quarter of all boating fatalities involve the use of alcohol — either directly or indirectly. Those who survive an accident on the water while under the influence will likely suffer financial and social consequences, including possible jail time. Alcohol doesn’t just affect the operator; passengers who have been drinking are 10 times more likely to fall overboard and drown. Simply put: Water and alcohol don’t mix.

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