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Focus on life jackets during National Boating Safety Week

By BRANDON MESSICK Today’s News-HeraldMay 20, 2019

There have been about 10 drowning deaths on the Colorado River within the past two years, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, and each could have been prevented with the use of life jackets.

Local and state agencies will focus on life jacket use this week through Friday, during National Boating Safety Week. The Arizona Game and Fish Department had events including “Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day” this past Friday, and the department’s annual life jacket exchange event today to raise life jacket awareness among boaters.

Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies hosted the exchange event at London Bridge Beach this past Saturday, allowing boaters to trade their old, worn-out life jackets for newer ones.

“Life jackets are one of the most important pieces of safety equipment required on boats,” said Mohave County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kyler Cox, who leads the department’s water safety division. “Life jackets aren’t just important on boats, but any body of water. It can mean the difference between life and death.”

Four of every five boating fatalities are caused by drowning, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, and 11 recreational boating deaths occurred in Arizona last year. According to Cox, even strong swimmers can’t afford to take risks in an environment like Lake Havasu – if a swimmer suffers a cramp, muscle issue or other complication, Cox says, a life jacket could be a literal lifesaver.

“People tend to take water for granted,” Cox said. “Things can happen quickly and suddenly, usually with little time to react.”

Arizona law requires that all watercraft, including motorboats, paddleboards and kayaks, have at least one Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board. Children 12 or younger are required to wear such a life jacket anytime a watercraft is underway.

The new jackets are available for distribution through a U.S. Coast Guard grant, and free to any boater who wishes to trade. According to Cox, boaters often arrive early at the event, and new life jackets are available only while supplies last.

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