COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say that while many people think other summer vacations would be the most popular time to go boating… fathers is actually the busiest sailing weekend in the state.

With that, safety officials are reminding people that 2022 has already seen a record number of drownings. 2020 saw the highest number of drownings in state history with 34 total and nine the week before Father’s Day. So far in 2022, there have been 13 drownings… four more than the same time in 2020.

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

According to Colorado state law…

  • People 12 and under must wear life jackets at all times on board, except inside a boat cabin.
  • People over 12 years old need to have a life jacket in the boat, ready for use.
  • ALL life jackets must be US Coast Guard certified in order to meet these requirements. (See photo below for label, which also specifies the intended user of the lifejacket and any special rules regarding that lifejacket)
This label will appear on every life jacket deemed safe for use by the US Coast Guard by meeting their standards.(KKTV)

If there aren’t life jackets for everyone on board and not all children 12 and under are wearing theirs, boaters can face fines of up to $100 per violation according to Colorado State law.

“We’ll enforce the law, but we know we’d be much better off educating people,” Stadterman said.

Life jackets must also be in “good working order” according to state law. This means replacing those that have too much wear and tear for them to be reliable. Parks and wildlife officials gave the example of many people leaving life jackets outside and in the sun, which can weaken the seams and thin the fabric.

Experts say a common mistake is wearing life jackets that are too loose. As shown in the video above, life jackets are meant to fit relatively snugly. You can do a rescue test by having someone pull on the shoulders of the lifejacket. If the person wearing the lifejacket slips out of the water after pulling enough to get it out of the water, then it is too loose. The straps should be tight where you can do this rescue test, and the person wearing the lifejacket stays in it. This ensures that they could be brought back into a boat after falling into the water without slipping out of the lifejacket.

“It’s absolutely worth doing a test run to find out how your gear is performing before you get to where you need it,” Stadterman said.

Another common mistake concerns boat capacities.

“Some people think that because they’re under the weight limit, but they’re over the weight limit, they’re fine,” Stadterman said. “But even if they have young children and they’re not heavy, as soon as you hit the number of people on capacity, that’s when the boat is full.”

All boats must have a capacity plate on them specifying both weight and person limits.

Click here for the 2022 Parks and Wildlife Navigation Manual with Regulations and Bylaws.

Copyright 2022 KKTV. All rights reserved.