The importance of water safety while recreating in Utah

Jun 8, 2023, 9:42 AM | Updated: 7:49 pm

(KSL NewsRadio)...

(KSL NewsRadio)

(KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Just in the last few weeks, there have been several drownings or near drownings in Utah. As we head into warmer weather, many Utahns are drawn to our many rivers and lakes. 

Utah is in the midst of a steady run-off season as our snowpacks melt and fill our waterways. Water safety is a topic Dave & Dujanovic discussed in depth during Thursday’s show.

Life jackets

Ty Hunter, boating program director for the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation, joins the show to share  some tips on life jackets.

Dujanovic begins the segment by saying, “Give us a lesson in life jackets 101.”

Hunter says life jackets should be like a favorite shirt or pair of shoes that you wear.

“Why is your favorite thing?” he asked. “Because it’s comfortable. You like wearing it. It’s not a burden, and that’s really what you need to be looking for when shopping for a life jacket.”

He says if it’s not comfortable or doesn’t fit you, you’re not going to wear it.

Hunter says a cheap life jacket isn’t necessarily the best solution, but it’s better than no life jacket at all.

“So sometimes buying the cheapest one you get, you’re gonna get what you get with that,” Hunter said. “But I also know there’s a budget to go in. So, a cheap one is better than none at all.”

Boat safety

Steve Bullock, chief of law enforcement for the Division of Outdoor Recreation, joined Dave & Dujanovic to discuss boat safety.

Dujanovic asked, “What do people need to have on their boats before they get them out on the water?”

Bullock says there is a courtesy vessel inspection that can be done on land. 

“Or if you get stopped for a violation out on the water,” he said. “Because maybe you haven’t taken a boating education course and don’t know all the rules. We’re going to walk through those with you and our rangers are really education-focused.”

He says Utah law requires every person on the boat have a life jacket.

Noriega asked, “When it comes to a life jacket, do we need to be wearing one at all times when we’re on a boat, or does it just need to be present on the boat?”

Bullock says he wears life jacket every time he goes boating, even though he knows how to swim.

“I wear it because open water is an unknown,” he said.

He says Utah law requires 12 years of age or younger to be properly wearing a life jacket at all times on a lake or reservoir.  Additionally, Bullock says the wearing of a life jacket is mandatory if you are floating down a river such as the Provo River or Colorado River. 

A fire extinguisher is also required on boats. 

Inflatable rafts or paddleboards

Paddleboarding and kayaking are growing in popularity in the state.

“So you gotta to make sure you know, if you gonna take an inflatable kayak out, what you’re getting into is high quality,” Noriega said. “Are you going to be going down some rapids or what is it going to be used for?”

Through a youtuber, Dave & Dujanovic advice using a leash when paddleboarding. It’s what attaches you to the paddleboard. By wearing one, it ensures you stay close to your paddleboard at all times.

The other safety tip issued with paddleboards and rafts is the wearing of a life jacket. 

Bullock says no matter how good of a swimmer you are, situations can change in open water.

“But any time we go to open water, open water is just different,” he said. “We have cold water factors. There’s not a lifeguard on duty … It’s several hundreds of feet deep, there’s unmarked hazards.”


More water safety tips

Noriega asked, “Can we talk about collisions?  How do you teach people to make sure they’re staying safe?”

Bullock says there is no set speed limit on the water, but you must stay at least 150 feet away from other boats. Boaters are also required to stay the same distance away from anyone in the water or on shore. It’s called the speed and proximity law.

Additionally, he says it’s not against the law to drink alcohol on a boat. However, the driver must not be intoxicated and cannot have an open container. 

The same penalties that are applied to driving on a freeway, also apply to boating.

Dujanovic asked Hunter, “What’s the legal age to drive a boat?”

He says in order for children to operate a boat by themselves, they must be 16 years of age. 

“A license is not required at that point in time,” Hunter said. 

Dujanovic asked, “You know, you see someone in distress. What are your recommendations for bystanders who want to help?”

Bullock says the best options are to throw something to them from shore or paddle out to them in a boat.

In flooding situations, Hunter and Bullock say it’s best not to go in after them.

They say the best thing to do it to wear a life jacket.



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The importance of water safety while recreating in Utah