Failure to wear a personal flotation device is the main reason people lose their lives in water recreation accidents.
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, according to the state Game and Fish Department. The law also requires all personal watercraft users to wear a life jacket, as well as anyone towed on skis, tubes, boards or other similar devices.
A new law passed this spring by the North Dakota Legislature allows an operator of a personal watercraft to tow an individual on water skis, a kneeboard or an inflatable craft without an observer, if the watercraft is equipped with a mirror on each side. In addition, the bill allows an individual who is at least 16 years old to windsurf or boardsail without wearing a PFD, and prohibits water skiing and surfboarding from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.
Water users should make sure to wear life jackets that are the appropriate size, and in good condition. It is also important that children wear a PFD while swimming.
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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 persons paddling a canoe should opt for a PFD that is comfortable enough to wear for an entire outing.
Swimmers should 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.
Regulations to help ensure safe boating this summer are found in the 2016-18 North Dakota Fishing Guide. A more comprehensive listing is available in the North Dakota Boat and Water Safety Guide or the Boat North Dakota education book.