As the temperatures go up and the ice goes down, most Coloradans begin putting away the skies and breaking out the boats. Whether you like to take your 21-foot cruiser out to your favorite lake or float down the Colorado River, here's a few rules from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife's boating program to be safe and have fun all summer long.
Remember to check all your safety equipment to make sure it's in good condition, especially your life jackets. In 2011, nine people drowned in boating accidents and five of them were not wearing a life jacket. A lot of people believe they can swim their way out of a bad spot, not realizing the effect cold water will have on them.
A great alternative for everyone 16 and older is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved inflatable life jacket. They are very comfortable and provide about twice the flotation as an inherently buoyant vest.
"Wear It Colorado!" is part of a national boating safety campaign, www.safeboatingcampaign.com.
Of all boaters involved in an accident last year, only 17 percent had any type of boating safety education. In 2012, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and their partners will host 107 boating safety review sessions at 28 locations throughout the state from April through September. These are open to the public and encouraged for all boaters, but required for motorboat drivers 14-15 years old.
If interested in a class, check the schedule online and reserve a spot at www.parks.state.co.us/ Boating, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org These classes can not only keep you and your family safer, they can also save you 5-10 percent on your boat insurance.
In 2010, boating under the influence of alcohol was a primary contributing factor in almost 20 percent of all recreational boating fatalities. Everyone knows how dangerous it is to drive a car after drinking alcohol, but due to the sun, heat and other stresses with boating, these effects are multiplied.
Boaters are generally less experienced driving a boat than a car or another vehicle as well. Boating under the influence rarely affects only the operator who's drinking. Everyone on the lake is at risk when there's an impaired boater. Play it safe on the water, pick a sober skipper.
Attracting more than 12 million visitors per year, Colorado's 42 state parks encompass 224,447 land and water acres, with more than 4,300 campsites.