WATCH: Demonstration shows common and deadly mistakes made on the water

KKTV 11 News at 4 (Recurring)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 5:39 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers say, despite many people thinking other summer holidays would be the most popular time to go boating... Father’s Day is actually the state’s busiest boating weekend.

With that, safety officials are reminding folks that 2022 has already seen a record number of drownings. 2020 had the most drownings in state history with 34 total, and nine as of the week before Father’s Day. Thus far in 2022, there have been 13 drownings... four more than at the same time in 2020.

“Any boat that goes out should have a life jacket on board for every person at minimum. We would love for people to wear them, but we know that doesn’t always happen,” said Joe Stadterman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Per Colorado state law...

  • People 12 years old and younger need to be wearing life jackets at all times on board, except when inside a boat cabin.
  • People older than 12 need to have a life jacket in the boat, ready to use.
  • ALL life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard Certified in order to meet these requirements. (See photo below for label, which also specifies the life jacket’s intended user and and special rules about that life jacket)
This label will appear on every life jacket deemed safe for use by the U.S. Coast Guard by...
This label will appear on every life jacket deemed safe for use by the U.S. Coast Guard by meeting their standards.(KKTV)

If there is not a life jacket for everyone on board, and all kids 12 and under are not wearing theirs, boaters can face fines up $100 per violation according to Colorado state law.

“We will do enforcement, but we know that we are much better off educating people,” said Stadterman.

Life jackets must also be in “good and serviceable condition” according state law. That means replacing any that have too much wear and tear for them to be reliable. Parks and Wildlife officers gave the example of many people leaving life jackets outside and in the sun, which can cause stitching to weaken and fabric to thin.

Experts say a commonly made mistake is wearing life jackets too loose. As shown in the above video, life jackets are meant to fit relatively snug. You can do a rescue test by having someone pull up on the shoulders of the life jacket. If the person wearing the life jacket slips out from enough pulling it would take to pull them out of water, then it is too loose. Straps should be tightened to where you can do that rescue test, and the person wearing the life jacket remains in it. This ensures that they could be pulled back into a boat after falling into water without sliding out of the life jacket.

“It’s absolutely 100% worth it to do a test run to know how your gear works before you get out to where you need it,” Stadterman said.

Another common mistake has to do with boat capacities.

“Some people think because they’re under the weight limit but they’re over the number of people that they’re fine,” Stadterman said. “But even if they have small kids and they don’t weigh much, as soon as you hit the number of people on the capacity, that’s when the boat is full.”

All boats should have a capacity plate on them specifying both weight and people limits.

Click here for the Parks and Wildlife 2022 Boating Handbook with regulations and statutes.

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