As the temperatures continue to rise and the school year ends, more people are expected to visit Arizona’s rivers and lakes, meaning the risk of water-related accidents will likely increase. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is urging all who recreate on the water to wear a life jacket, follow safety regulations and laws, as well as designate a sober operator.
So far in 2023, three people have lost their lives boating in Arizona. In 2022, boating accidents claimed the lives of 13 people, injured 60 more and caused $1 million in damages, according to AZGFD.
“A life jacket does exactly what it says — it saves your life when you need it,” said Danny Rodriguez, watercraft law enforcement programs coordinator. “However, it can only save your life if you’re wearing one, and often it’s too late to put one on once you realize you need it.”
According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, in cases where the cause of death has been determined, 86% of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket. AZGFD is once again stressing the importance of wearing a life jacket and focusing on safe boating practices as another busy boating season gets underway.
To promote the use of life jackets and kick off National Safe Boating Week, May 20-26, AZGFD and partner agencies will host several life jacket exchange events throughout the state. Those with old, worn out or improperly-fitting life jackets will be able to exchange them for a new one, free of charge, while supplies last.
“Like anything else, life jackets wear out with time, and these exchange events are a great opportunity for Arizona’s boaters and paddlers to ensure they have a life jacket that not only fits correctly, but is in great condition and ready should they need it,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator.
“Before heading out on the water, it’s important that boaters ensure their life jackets are in good condition and that they are the right size and fit for passengers.”
State law requires all passengers 12 and younger to wear a life jacket while on board a boat, and each passenger on board must have a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket available. The life jacket requirements also apply to paddle crafts like kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards.
The life jacket exchange events will take place at the following locations and dates:
Saturday, May 20:
8 a.m. - noon
- Bartlett Lake (Jojoba ramp)
- Canyon Lake (main ramp)
- Lake Pleasant (10-Lane ramp)
- Saguaro Lake (main ramp) also, May 21, if additional life jackets are still available
Tempe Town Lake (at marina)
Bullhead City Fire Department at Rotary Park, 2315 Balboa Dr.
9 a.m. - noon
Eagle Motorsports, 2106 AZ-Hwy 95, Bullhead City, also every third Saturday of each month through August
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Patagonia Lake State Park (marina ramp)
Saturday, June 3:
9 a.m. - noon
La Paz County Sheriff’s Boating Safety Building, 8484 Riverside Dr. in Parker
Friday, June 9:
Bullhead City Recreation Building, 2285 Trane Road, Bullhead City
Saturday, June 10:
10 a.m. - noon
Lake Havasu City (London Bridge Beach Stage), 1340 McCulloch Blvd. N., Lake Havasu City
Note: Type I and Type II life jackets will not be accepted; only ski vest-type life jackets are eligible for exchange.
Since 2016, AZGFD has exchanged more than 7,000 life jackets across the state.
For more information about boating in Arizona or to sign up for a free safety course, visit azgfd.gov/boating.
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