Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Law: Boats need floats

Easy life jacket access required

Don and Chris Gilmore, of Merriam, drive off in their boat Tuesday morning on Clinton Lake with their life jackets on. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is making an increased effort to enforce the law that requires life jackets to be accessible while on a boat after an increase in boating accident deaths the last couple of years.

Don and Chris Gilmore, of Merriam, drive off in their boat Tuesday morning on Clinton Lake with their life jackets on. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is making an increased effort to enforce the law that requires life jackets to be accessible while on a boat after an increase in boating accident deaths the last couple of years.

May 21, 2008


On the street

Do you always wear a life jacket when you’re on a boat?

Absolutely. We just bought a boat in November, and we have about 13 life jackets on board.

More responses

Reader poll
Right now only children are required to wear life jackets on a boat in Kansas. Should all passengers in a boat be required to wear a life jacket?

or See the results without voting


If you are going out on a boat this Memorial Day weekend, you better have a life jacket readily accessible.

That's the law, and officers from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will not be giving any warnings this season. The ticket books are coming out.

"We are, in effect, taking a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to life jacket or personal floatation device laws," KDWP natural resources officer Aaron Henrichs said.

Last winter, KDWP boating law administrator Dan Hesket issued a directive to officers to write the tickets because of the number of boating accidents and fatalities in the state in recent years.

Officers frequently check boats and find that while life jackets may be aboard, they often are stowed. The law doesn't require a person to wear one, but it has to be accessible.

"In a given day, if I check 10 boaters, eight would have life jackets stowed and not accessible," Henrichs, who works in Douglas County, said.

In addition to boating accidents, there were nine drownings last year in Kansas waters, Henrichs said. One of them occurred at Clinton Lake when a swimmer drowned.

In 2007, statewide boating accidents were actually down. There were 26 in 2007 and 42 in 2006. But fatalities in boating accidents have been increasing - from two in 2004 to six in 2007.

Damage from Kansas boating accidents in 2007 amounted to $82,550. About half of that amount was the result of a fire that sank a houseboat on Clinton Lake.

Clinton Lake was the site of three boating accidents in 2007, but there were no injuries.

Last weekend at Clinton Lake, four tickets were issued because children were not wearing life jackets. The law requires children to wear life jackets at all times. Tickets are issued to the parents. Boat owners are issued tickets for each life jacket that is not accessible to adults. Fines are $50 for the first inaccessible jacket and $25 for each additional jacket. Court costs are $66.

A boat at Clinton Marina recently was prevented from going out on the water when it was determined that there were only three life jackets aboard for eight people, Henrichs said.

"We wouldn't let them get on the boat until they found additional life jackets," he said.

Seat cushions can be used as floatation devices, but cushions and jackets must have a label showing they have been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, Henrichs said. They are the equivalent of seat belts in a car, he said.

"If you are thrown from a boat, you will hit as hard as if on pavement," he said. "If you are unconscious you will drown, not lay there until an ambulance arrives."

Water accidents and deaths in area

Kansas boating fatalities

2007: 62006: 52005: 42004: 2

Clinton Lake

2007: Three boating accidents involving three boats; no fatalities and no injuries. One swimmer drowned at Clinton Lake.

Perry Lake

2007: Four boating accidents involving seven boats; one fatality, one injury.

Kansas River

2007: Two boating accidents in the northeast region involving three boats; three fatalities. None in Douglas County.


SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

Thanks, government. Thanks for protecting me from myself. Thanks for getting even more involved in my life.

mainah 10 years, 1 month ago

KURocks IS correct. KDWP does use rent-a-cops and they are VERY inconsistant!

gogoplata 10 years, 1 month ago

This is just as silly as seat belt and helmet laws. TOO MUCH Government in our lives. Can we elect people who will get the government out of our lives please?

speedykitty 10 years, 1 month ago

Unless you also say not to bother calling for rescue if your boat is upside down in the lake, your independent attitude doesn't "hold water". Millions of dollars are spent by agencies trying to save people from their foolishness, whether in flooding waters, no life jackets, mountain climbing at inappropriate times, etc. The same goes for motorcycle helmets and vehicle seat belts. No man is an island......

KURocks 10 years, 1 month ago

It sure would be nice if somewhere in the article they would define readily accesssible. Does it have to be next to you, visible, or what?. I can't wait to see Barney Fife on the water this weekend enforcing their new directive.

characteristic 10 years, 1 month ago

"'If you are thrown from a boat, you will hit as hard as if on pavement,' he said." Perhaps, then, seatbelts, helmets, duck tape, bubble wrap, prescribed medications, etc. should be readily accessible as well. (This is not just for safety of the boaters but also for those who dare to venture out of the house.) Offenders without these and other items should be fined.

Bud Stagg 10 years, 1 month ago

Rammy, That kind of remark shows the lack of respect you have for boating and water safety. You should not be allowed on the lake and I expecially wouldn't want you boating near me. I grew up on a lake and have seen my share of accidents and fatalities. Almost all were caused by lack of respect for the environment they were operating in. Take boating seriously or someone will get hurt.

Dale Stringer 10 years, 1 month ago

It seems to me that the term "easily accessable" leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Do they have to be laying out in the open on the deck or can they be stored under a lift-up seat? What may be good for one officer might not for the next. If it is written out somewhere, let the people know.

KURocks 10 years, 1 month ago

I went to the KDWP web site to see the definition of readily accessible. It stated life jackets and a throwing device need to be plainly visible and can be reached without opening a compartment. Sounds to me that if you have people in different parts of the boat, then you need to have a life jacket within reach of them. Better get with the program, or these rent-a-cops will be writing tickets left and right.

ejscheele 10 years, 1 month ago

Thank goodness we are trying to lower the 6 fatality number from Kansas with outstanding enforcements like life jackets in boats. It wouldn't make any sense at all to focus our energies to require something like, say for instance, helmets for motorcyles.......... where last year, 4,008 motorcycle riders were killed in highway accidents. Now that is the intelligence of our legislature at work. Shall we all join you as you step back in the time warp along the evolutionary ladder or just wait until your head comes out the other end so you finally see day light?

Mike Myers 10 years, 1 month ago

I don't think I would characterize the KDWP officers as rent-a-cops. These guys are well trained and actually get into the thick of it just as much or more as regular city police officers. Their regular beat involves people out looking for a good time in the wilderness, often drinking and often packing heat. These guys are the real deal, believe me.

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