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Accidents On Water Happen; Life Jackets Save Lives

National Boating Safety Week is underway through May 22, but don't let safety stop there. It's an "always thing."



Arizona's boating season is in full swing and the Arizona Game and Fish Department geared up for it with life-jacket exchange stations at four of the state's lakes on May 16.

Boaters with tattered and worn ski-vest type III life jackets exchanged them for new ones at Lake Pleasant, Saguaro Lake, and Lake Havasu.

Accidents Happen

"Accidents and incidents can happen to anyone at any time so it is absolutely critical everyone aboard a boat has a fully functional life jacket. It's also the law," said Josh Hoffman, Arizona Game and Fish boating safety Education Coordinator.

The life jacket exchanges were done in coordination with National Safe Boating Week, which runs through May 22. This year-long campaign promotes the value of voluntary, consistent life jacket use by recreational boaters through the national theme, "Wear It!"

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in three-fourths of recreational boating fatalities in 2013 nationwide and that 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

"Our lakes and waterways offer some of the best scenery our state has to offer, but our boaters can only take it in if they're around to enjoy it," Hoffman said. "Simply wearing a life jacket can mean the difference between having a great time on the water with friends and family, and not going home at all."


All vessels except sailboards and certain racing shells or rowing skulls must have at least one wearable Type I, II, III or V life jacket (PFD) that is U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved and of the proper size for each person on board.

Life jackets must be readily accessible, in good and serviceable condition and sized for the intended wearer.

In addition to the above requirements, vessels 16 feet in length or longer, except a canoe or kayak, must have one Type IV USCG-approved throwable floatation device on board and readily accessible.

All children 12 years of age and younger must wear a USCG approved Type I, II, III life jacket (PFD) anytime while underway on any vessel. The life jacket must be worn according to the design of the manufacturer's recommended use and must fit the child properly. All snaps must be snapped, zippers and fasteners closed.

Each person on a personal watercraft such as a personal watercraft (PWC) commonly known as a Jet Ski or Wave Runner must wear a USCG approved Type I, II, III PFD (life jacket) with all fasteners and closures secured according to the manufacturer's design and recommended use. Further, the life jacket must be adjusted for a snug fit.

Each person being towed behind a vessel on water skis or a similar device must wear a life jacket or buoyant belt. Note however, that buoyant belts are not approved by the USCG (USCG Approved Floatation Devices).

Comfortable PFDs

New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange-style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing or paddling and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

Boating Education

The Arizona Game and Fish Department's boating safety Education courses include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or PWC, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements, boating emergencies, watersports and paddling.

Take a boating education course now! Most insurance companies offer a discount on your boat or PWC insurance rate for completing one of our courses.

Courses are offered in three formats, classroom courses, home study courses and online courses. Becoming a safe and knowledgeable boater is just a click away.

Home-Study Course


Free home study packet, Call the Education Branch at (623) 236-7219 or (623) 236-7258.

boating safety Information

Boat safe, Boat smart, Boat sober

Life Jackets - Personal Flotation Devices

Did You Know?

Arizona hunting and fishing licenses are a great value. You can get combination hunting and fishing licenses for a family of four for less than the price of one night in a motel. Great Outdoors, Great Value!


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