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Parks and Rec officials hope PSA convinces people to wear life jackets

(Photo: Adam Sotelo, KSL TV, June 16, 2019)

WASATCH FRONT – Deadly boating accidents are on the rise in Utah, and state officials say the vast majority of them can be prevented.  So, they’re releasing their boating safety PSA earlier than they planned.

With six fatalities on the water already, the Division of Parks and Recreation is extremely concerned.  That’s two-thirds the number we saw in all of 2018.  Boating Manager Ty Hunter says they’re seeing an alarming number of people deciding not to wear their jackets.

“Seven percent of Utahns only voluntarily wear their life jackets,” Hunter says.

State law requires that these vests be available for everyone who is on the boat, but, not everyone is required to wear them.  Kids under the age of 13 are required, and Hunter says they are seeing better compliance with that.

He says, “We’re seeing less and less kids that are being caught without jackets on.”

However, he believes many people overestimate their ability to swim in extremely cold water if they were to fall from the boat.

“You’re going to be hyperventilating.  You can’t control your breathing and if you can’t stay afloat, you may be aspirating water into your lungs at that point in time,” he says.

The division estimates that roughly 80 percent of boating deaths involve someone who wasn’t wearing the device.  Some of these cases have happened just in the last few months.

Hunter says, “Just recently, there was, at East Canyon Reservoir, a swimmer that left a boat to swim away from it, and could not make it back to the boat.”

He also says most accidents don’t involve harsh water conditions.  Most of them happen with little wind and with two-foot waves.