Stay Safe This Boating Season

June 17, 2015 by  

I grew up in the 1980s when recommendations for seatbelt use were turning into laws, and people were trying to adjust to the process of having to click in before driving off.

061715 summer safety on the water

In North Dakota, youngsters age 10 and under are required to wear a PFD anytime they are in a boat of less than 27 feet in length.

And who would argue about that? It’s impossible to plan the best time to wear or not wear a safety belt, so it just makes sense to wear one all the time. 

The premise for wearing personal floatation devices while in a boat isn’t much different. While regulations don’t require mandatory wearing of PFDs for anyone age 11 or older on North Dakota waters, if an accident does happen, it’s usually too late for the PFD to do any good.  

It certainly isn’t surprising that national statistics show that failure to wear a PFD is the main reason people lose their lives in water recreation accidents.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department boat and water safety coordinator Nancy Boldt says boating safety begins with wearing a personal flotation device.

North Dakota law requires all children ages 10 and younger to wear a personal flotation device while in boats of less than 27 feet in length. State law also requires an approved PFD on board for older passengers, and all personal watercraft users to must wear a life jacket, as well as anyone towed on skis, tubes, boards or other similar devices. 

Water users should make sure to wear life jackets that are the appropriate size, and in good condition. It is also recommended that children wear a PFD while swimming.

Water skiers and tubers should wear a life jacket with four nylon straps rather than one with a zipper, because straps are stronger than zippers upon impact with water. Anglers or anyone paddling a canoe should opt for a PFD that is comfortable enough to wear for an entire outing. 

Water skiers and tubers are reminded it takes three to ski and tube. When a person is towed on water skis or a similar device, an observer other than the operator is required on the vessel. 

“Water recreationists need to be alert and safe,” Boldt said. “Swimmers need to know the water’s depth, as serious injuries can occur from diving into water. Large objects hidden below the water’s surface can lead to significant injury.”

North Dakota boaters also are reminded that marine VHF radios are an important part of boat safety that should not be improperly used by operators. These radios are intended for boat operators who are in distress and facing an emergency situation. 

At this time of year when water recreation activity is starting to peak, it’s a good idea to refresh your memory on regulations that will help ensure safe boating this summer. The current North Dakota Fishing Guide is a good start, and a more comprehensive listing is available in the North Dakota Boat and Water Safety Guide or the Boat North Dakota education book. 

These guides are available online at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov, by email at [email protected], or at a local Game and Fish Department office. 

Summer is short in North Dakota and we all try to squeeze every enjoyable outdoors opportunity, but we all need to make sure to not just follow the regulations and laws, but also to use common sense and stay safe.


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