WILMINGTON — When you first drop a boat in the water, your first instinct may not be to strap on a life jacket. However, the few seconds it takes to put one on could be the difference between life and death on the water.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is looking to change peoples perspective on these life saving devices, and increase boater awareness, with its “Preserve Your Life” campaign.
According to the commission, last year, 17 boaters lost their lives, and not one of them was wearing a life jacket.
Federal and state laws require that a working personal flotation device of appropriate size be accessible for each person on board a recreational vessel. The state requires children under the age of 13 to wear a life vest when on a vessel at all times, as well as anyone operating a personal watercraft, or being towed by one.
As part of the campaign, wildlife enforcement officers will be handing out coupons that can be redeemed for discounts on life jackets at certain retailers throughout the summer months.
Retailers include Overton’s, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Great Outdoor Provision Co., Chatlee Marine and REI (Cary and Durham). Officers will also be conducting pre-launch safety checks at boat ramps across the state.
Wildlife Resources Commission Maj. Chris Heubner reminded boaters in a press release that it’s always important to put on your life jacket before heading out on the water.
“Even the strongest of swimmers can be incapacitated during an accident. In dire situations, there often isn’t time to grab a life vest and put it on properly,” he said. “It can save your life and can help you assist others who may be in danger.”
One of the main stigmas against life jackets is a question of style. But over the years, life jackets have changed drastically, gone are the days of the hot, bulky orange rings that strangle your face. Now, there’s a design for everyone.
According to the commission, many life jackets are designed for specific activities like fishing, water sports, and even hunting. This enables users the freedom to enjoy their time on the water, without putting their life in peril.
For information on boating safety, visit the NCWRC website at ncwildlife.org/Boating or call 919-707-0030.