Nevada law will require children be in life jackets
Lake Tahoe boaters will have to strap life jackets on their children soon.
Beginning Oct. 1, youngsters under 12 will be required by Nevada law to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in any moving boat.
Each passenger riding a personal watercraft, regardless of age, will also be required to wear a life jacket.
The regulations are part of new boating legislation signed into law by Gov. Kenny Guinn. California agencies started enforcing similar laws on Lake Tahoe Jan. 1.
Boating officials praised Nevada for joining 38 other states in requiring children to wear life jackets.
“Thousands of people would be alive today had they taken the simple precaution of wearing a life jacket when they went out on the water,” said Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 90 percent of the more than 700 people killed annually in boating accidents aren’t wearing a jacket.
“We don’t pull life jackets off of dead people,” said Chief Jim Devane, at the Coast Guard office in Tahoe City. “I think this law is outstanding.”
Previous laws only required boaters to have enough jackets for all riders on board.
Devane said Tahoe boaters are usually diligent about having enough jackets. However, he said many people don’t have child-size vests.
“When people who might not have children on their boats they don’t think to get small life jackets,” Devane said. “Then when the neighbor children go for a ride they don’t have jackets.”
The Tahoe City Coast Guard office offers a life jacket loaner program for children. Devane said people can drop by the station on Lake Forest Road and pick up a child-size jacket for the day.
The Nevada Division of Wildlife, Douglas and Washoe counties will join El Dorado County and the South Lake Tahoe Police Department in policing the lake for violators beginning in October.
Because of a lake-wide compact, citations can be given and arrests made by any agency anywhere on the lake, according to Officer Chuck Sohrt of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department boating safety.
Tom Atkinson, NDOW chief game warden, said warnings will be given initially to people who don’t comply. However, counties can issue citations similar to road traffic tickets and the Coast Guard can fine illegal boaters a maximum of $2,000.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2003, Lake Tahoe recreationists 20 years old and younger who want to operate motorized watercraft exceeding 15 horsepower will be required to complete a boating education course. The law requires operators to carry proof of education. Only courses approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators will be accepted.
Atkinson said acceptable courses range from simple correspondence and Internet-based tests to advanced boating classes.
He estimated the education requirement will affect about 3,000 boaters initially statewide. He was uncertain how many people in Tahoe will have to complete the courses.
In addition to new education requirements, people who want to operate personal watercraft, like Jet Skis, on Lake Tahoe will have to be 14 years old, beginning Jan. 1, 2003. The new law requires operators to be two years older than current regulation.
“We anticipate a significant improvement in boating safety on waters throughout the state, especially through the mandatory education process,” said Fred Messmann, NDOW boating law administrator. “Some boaters may see this as an inconvenience, but the life saved as a result of this program could be their very own or that of someone they love.”
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