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SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways is joining boating education professionals across the country in reminding recreational boaters to boat responsibly during National Safe Boating Week (May 21-27) and year-round. Simple actions such as wearing a life jacket and getting the California Boater Card can help improve safety on California’s waterways.  

According to DBW statistics, where cause of death was known 71% of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2021. Wearing a life jacket is the number one way to increase the chances of survival in an emergency, whether on a powerboat or paddlecraft. There is no excuse not to wear a life jacket. Modern life jackets come in comfortable styles and designs. Additionally, DBW has partnered with a number of entities across the state to loan life jackets to the public.

“Through our statewide partnerships with educational institutions and aquatic centers, DBW educates thousands of boaters about the ways they can prepare for a safe and responsible time out on the water,” says DBW Acting Deputy Director Ramona Fernandez. “The number one lesson is to boat responsibly by always wearing a life jacket.”

A few important safety tips are included below:  

  • Get your California Boater Card. As of January 1, 2022 all operators of motorized vessels on California waterways 45 years of age and younger are required to carry the card. By 2025, all boaters will be required to carry one regardless of age. The lifetime card fee is $10. Remember it is the law. Learn more at CaliforniaBoaterCard.com.
  • Make sure you have the right safety equipment on board. Life jackets for everyone on board, navigation lights and sound signaling devices are some of the required equipment needed for a safer voyage. If in doubt about what is required, check out the ABCs of California Boating publication, schedule a vessel safety check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons, or download a virtual vessel safety check and inspect your boat.
  • Inspect your life jacket. Make sure that there is a life jacket for everyone on board and that they are serviceable. Check the label to make sure the life jacket has a U.S. Coast Guard approval number, is the appropriate size, and is the right type of life jacket for the intended boating activity.
  • Plan ahead. Considering this year’s drought conditions impacting waterways throughout the state, plan ahead and check the impact of the drought on your favorite waterway before going out on the water.
  • File a float plan before each boating trip. Share a float plan with a family member or friend including the details of your trip, so your location is known in the event of an emergency. Click here to view/print a float plan.
  • Check the weather.Before getting underway, check the latest conditions such as weather and check regularly for changing conditions. Besides the Internet, information may be obtained by tuning to local radio stations or the National Weather Radio broadcasts.
  • Avoid Alcohol. Operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is against the law. Impaired operators will be stopped and be arrested even with a lower BAC if the conditions are not safe. Your boat can be impounded.
  • Boat Clean and Green.Keep your trash on-board. Take advantage of shore-side facilities to recycle plastic, glass, metal and paper. Used fishing line can be deposited at fishing-line recycling stations. Always carry oil absorbents on board and in your bilge to prevent oily discharges and to prevent fuel spills. Use fuel bibs and dispose of them properly. If interested in receiving a free California Boater Kit which includes two oil absorbents, a fuel bib, and much more — click here.  

The public is invited to check the information below to learn more about boating safety and find out where life jackets are available free to the public:

  • Virtually kick off National Safe Boating Week by joining us on Friday, May 20, at 11:30 a.m. on the Boat California Facebook page for a live chat with boating experts about how you can keep you and your family safe while boating this summer.
  • Find life jacket exchange events here happening during National Safe Boating Week throughout California where you can exchange your old life jackets for new ones.
  • May 20 is Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day. DBW invites the public to wear a life jacket in their office setting, take a photograph and share it on social media. Please tag us with #BoatCalifornia and #WearYourLifeJacketToWorkDay.

For more boating and water safety information please visit BoatCalifornia.com.