Use safety precautions during water recreationOver the course of nearly two decades, I’ve taught and assisted in dozens and dozens of hunter education or boat and water safety classes. My favorite part of any event is the question and answer or open session wrapping up the event.
By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press
Over the course of nearly two decades, I’ve taught and assisted in dozens and dozens of hunter education or boat and water safety classes. My favorite part of any event is the question and answer or open session wrapping up the event.
The students in the classes, young and old, exchange different scenarios, questions and stories, and I often leave enlightened and learn something right along with the class. Whether it’s keeping a safe distance from occupied buildings in hunting, or what age youngsters need to wear a personal floatation device or what is commonly called a life jacket.
Those answers, by the way, are a legal distance of 440 yards from occupied building unless you have permission from the owner, and all children ages 10 and under must have a life jacket on when in a boat of less than 27 feet in length.
The people who attend these classes, and the people who teach them, are primarily there to prevent the accidents that can occur during a recreational outing.
No one wants to injure themselves or others in a boating or hunting accident, and most of them are obviously preventable and traceable to a wrong choice at some point leading up to the accident.
Some are just stuff that happens on rare occasions because we participate in an outdoor activity. For instance, an experienced water skier, following the letter of the law and not doing anything inherently dangerous, who wipes out ends up with an injury. Most people who ski have hit the water many times without injury, but the only way to eliminate the risk that comes with skiing is to not ski at all.
On the other hand, picture a scenario of a drunk boater running at a high rate of speed after dark with no lights and not wearing a life jacket. That’s a recipe for a tragedy. Same for people who drive around in vehicles with loaded firearms in the front seat. The potential for accidents increases greatly because of poor choices.
My personal belief is that the No. 1 cause of accidents in the water, on land or out in the field, is the “it can’t happen to me” attitude.
Most of us like to take to the water on a warm summer day, whether it’s for fishing, boating or simply lounging, to get away from it all and for a taste of summer enjoyment. Unfortunately, at times, some people put their fun and good time ahead of their own safety, or the safety of others.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to still have fun while putting safety on the top of the list of things to do in, on and near the water.
Just like seat belts in vehicles, life jackets are not intended to prevent accidents. They are intended to reduce injuries should an accident occur. In North Dakota, boat occupants age 11 and older are not required to wear a life jacket, but boats must have one on board for each occupant.
One of the most prevalent citations issued by North Dakota game wardens is for not having enough life jackets on board.
Drivers and riders of personal watercraft, as well as water skiers and tubers, are required to wear approved life jackets, regardless of age.
When a person is towed on water skis or a similar device, an observer other than the operator is required on the vessel.
With the peak of summer water activity coming up, here’s hoping that all of us have a fun and safe boating season.
Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org