Pennsylvania boaters are reminded once again that beginning on November 1 all boaters (including waterfowl hunters) in Pennsylvania must wear a life jacket on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak during the cold-water months from November 1 through April 30. IT IS THE LAW!
“According to Pennsylvania’s boating accident reports, almost 80 percent of all boating fatalities happen to boaters not wearing a life jacket,” said Laurel Anders, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Director of Boating and Outreach.
Recreational boating fatalities that occur in the state from November through April are primarily caused by the effects of cold-water immersion. When a person is unexpectedly plunged into cold water below 70ºF, the body’s first response is usually an involuntary gasp. This is something no one can control and ruins the ability to swim because the person hyperventilates.
Statistics clearly show that boating accidents that occur during the cold water period are much more likely to result in death than accidents in warmer water. In fact, nationally, four times as many boating accidents result in a fatality when the water temperature is 39 degrees or colder. The human body cools down 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air.
“There is a wealth of new research on cold water survival which states that wearing a life jacket significantly increases a person’s chance of survival,” Anders said. “Without a life jacket, a victim may inhale while under water and drown without coming back to the surface. This can only be prevented by wearing a life jacket at all times while on the water.”
Boaters, especially kayakers and canoeists should always wear a life jacket, even when not required. Many models provide insulating qualities against cold air and water. Also, never boat alone.
To learn more about life jacket wear and cold water survival, visit the PFBC website.
Another reminder for paddlers is that when planning a kayak or canoeing trip a launch permit or boat registration is required to use access areas owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and at state park and state forest access areas operated by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Launch permits are available online through the PFBC’s Outdoor Shop, at PFBC region offices, authorized issuing agents and many state park offices. More information is available by calling the PFBC’s toll-free registration hot-line 866-BOATREG (866-262-8734) or by visiting the PFBC website.