Local Officials Promote Boating Safety Ahead Of Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start to boating season

Shelby Cassesse
May 21, 2019 - 2:22 pm

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - With Memorial Day weekend known as the unofficial start to boating season in Pennsylvania, local officials are reminding boaters of safety precautions to take before heading out on the water.

The most common boating offenses in Pennsylvania are boating under the influence (BUI) and boating without a life jacket. 

State law mandates that all boats must have an approved life jacket for each person on board, while children 12 and under must wear one at all times on any boat 20 feet or less in length, including canoes and kayaks. All water skiers, anyone towed behind vessels, personal watercraft passengers and sailboarders must also wear a life jacket at all times. 

Tim Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, says of the 14 boating fatalities in Pennsylvania last year, 11 of them were not wearing a life jacket. 

"That's consistent with statistics each year," he said. "We find that about 80 percent of boating fatalities are a result of people not wearing a life jacket." 

Fines for life jacket violations reach $125. 

Officials will also be looking closely for boaters operating a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Mike Johnson, waterways conservation officer, says BUI penalties include loss of boating privileges, significant fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment. 

"Waterways conservation officers will be on patrol throughout the summer looking for impaired boaters," he said. "My best advice to all boaters is select a designated boat operator to enjoy your trip." 

Most boaters in Pennsylvania are also required to take a boating education class. A Pennsylvania Boating Safety Education Certificate is required to operate a personal watercraft or for people born on or after January 1, 1982 who wish to operate motor-powered boats. Classes are offered throughout Pennsylvania and online. 

For more information on state boating regulations, visit the Pennsylvania Fish & Boating Commission's website.