With our temperatures starting to feel like summer, Valley residents are dusting off their boats and heading to our nearby lakes to cool off. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has declared this week National Safe Boating Week to celebrate the boating season, and to advise watercraft users to exercise safe practices on crowded waters.
The most important thing to remember is to wear a life jacket at all times on the water. Even if you are a great swimmer, wear your life jacket. Even if you know the lake well, wear your life jacket. And don't forget to know the laws of boating in Arizona.
Most of Arizona's lakes and rivers are murky and have a low visibility. When a person goes under the water--even just a few inches, they can be impossible to see and rescue. If you are wearing a life jacket, you pop right to the surface where you can be rescued quickly. If you are the best swimmer in the world and you hit your head and go under, no one will be able to find you if you aren't wearing a life jacket. This is the main reason people drown in our lakes and waterways. Rescuers cannot see them so they can get to them and pull them from the water.
Remember, just having life vests “in the boat” is not enough. Everyone on the boat should be wearing them. Even if you plan to stay in the boat, and even if you are not going out to water ski or swim. If the boat gets into an accident or somehow tips over, everyone ends up in the water.
It's also important to remember the dangers of drinking and being out on the water. It is just as dangerous to drink and boat as it is to drink and drive a car, and the penalties are just the same. You can be arrested and fined and have your boat impounded for driving under the influence.
Know all the important rules of boating in a crowded lake. Know where you can go fast and where you have to drop the boat speed. For a list of boating regulations and requirements, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department website, azgfd.gov.
While preparing your boat or other watercraft make sure the following items are on board:
- Properly fitted life jackets for each person on board. Children ages 12 and under are required to wear their life jackets at all times while a boat is underway. Personal watercraft operators and their passengers are required to wear a life jacket as well.
- A boat must pass inspection before it can be registered.
Boating is supposed to be fun, where no one gets hurt and no one gets arrested. Know the rules, obey the law and have fun.