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Marine Patrol

Keeping your head above water


The use of life jackets or personal flotation devices cannot be over emphasized.  More than two-thirds of boating fatalities result in drowning, and 90 percent of these drownings could have been prevented had the victim been wearing a life jacket.This item is by far the most important safety equipment on your boat, but still many boaters fail to use it.  

The importance of wearing life jackets is illustrated by our policy that all Marine Deputies in Bonner County wear their life jacket anytime their patrol vessel is underway—not only for their safety, but to set the right example for the boating public. So beware—if you fail to carry life jackets on your vessel, you will be cited ($94 fine)!

Life jacket requirements are quite simple. All vessels (anything that can be used for transportation on the water) must have a wearable life jacket that fits, is in serviceable condition, readily accessible, and Coast Guard approved for each occupant.  In addition, if the vessel is 16’ or longer, it shall have a Type IV (throwable) on board (except canoes and kayaks).  Also, children 14 years of age and younger on board vessels 19’ or less must wear an approved life jacket when the vessel is underway. Lastly, those riding on personal watercraft and those being towed behind a vessel must also wear their personal flotation device. 

While we recommend that boater always wear a life jacket when underway, there are times when it’s particularly important. First of all, night time! If one ends up in the water in darkness, it’s too late to find and don a life jacket. Unless you already have it on, your chances of survival are not good—especially in cold water. Secondly, bad weather! When stormy weather approaches, make sure your life jacket is on. Lastly, any time you are out in a small open boat (canoe/kayak/paddle board) always wear your life jacket.

This is the last article in a series on boater safety that started last April. Unfortunately, on July 3, we had a terrible boating accident that took the lives of two of our young county residents. This accident was preventable—if only existing regulations and safe boating practices were followed! Be safe out there on the water!


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Author info

Cary Kelly Cary Kelly Cary Kelly is a Lieutenant with the Bonner County Sheriff's Office Marine Deputy division

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outdoors, boating

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