OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Come on in, the water’s fine (but remember to wear a life jacket)

May 17, 2024, 6:00 AM | Updated: May 22, 2024, 8:15 am

Life jackets are pictured at the Saratoga Springs Marina at Utah Lake on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022....

Life jackets are available at the Saratoga Springs Marina at Utah Lake on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Spring is here and water activities are near, but before you gas up the jet skis and go, soak up an expert’s experience about the modern-day life jacket and safety.

Keep in mind that:

  • nationally, 80% of people who drowned in boating accidents would have survived had they been wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), according to the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation
  • according to Utah law, there must be at least one properly-sized U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard a vessel; and
  • passengers who are 12 years old and younger must wear a properly-sized Coast Guard-approved life jacket whenever a boat is in operation.

An important first step when selecting the proper life jacket is choosing one that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved and matches its intended use. 

Tune in to Dave & Dujanovic!

That selection process can start simply by looking closely at the life jacket.

Icons on the warning label tell the user if a flotation device may not be appropriate for certain activities, such as water-skiing, towed sports or personal watercraft.

“So if you’re going to be jet skiing with your kids or motorboating or paddling, there are different types of life jackets,” said Steve Bullock, chief of law enforcement with the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation. Bullock spoke with KSL NewsRadio during a live broadcast on water safety from Big Cottonwood Creek in Salt Lake County.

 

It’s also important to make sure the jacket is comfortable. 

“If it doesn’t have a buckle on it [and] it’s just a zipper, then it might say ‘this is not good for towed water sports,’ for instance, because if you crash, you need that buckle to be on there,” Bullock said.

Remember life jacket safety at all times when on water

If young boaters are required under law to wear a life jacket, be a living adult example of good behavior by wearing one while out on the water. Bullock said that, alone, can help kids feel more comfortable wearing their life jackets.

Life jackets today are much superior to the orange, bulky, square horse-collar life jackets of yesteryear.

“We had a life jacket that … my daughter screamed every time we put it on. So I invested [and] found a nice one on (a river supply) website designed for kayaking. She loves it. She wears it everywhere,” Bullock said.

Another way to get kids to wear a life jacket is to make it fun. Bullock recalled a contest during a boat show to see which child could put on a life jacket quickest.

“They were just racing to do it and it took about 10 seconds — 8 seconds I think was the fast time to get a life jacket on.

“Imagine if you’re in a boat crash, another boat hits you, there’s an emergency, or if you’re in the water trying to put a life jacket on. We encourage people to wear them because they’re really hard to put on after the fact,” Bullock said.

Pools vs. open waters

Bullock said his children are great swimmers but in open waters they wear their life jackets.

“I’ve got my kids into competitive swimming. They’re 11 and almost 13, and they can do amazing strokes, but when we get around open water, they’re in a life jacket and they’re comfortable in it.

“I know that it just gives that extra security. They’re not having to work as much. They can have fun because they have that extra buoyancy. They can still swim, but they can have fun wearing a life jacket.”

Related: Fishing limit will increase ahead of lake poisonings


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Come on in, the water’s fine (but remember to wear a life jacket)