Prizes for boaters |

Prizes for boaters

Lake Tahoe boaters could win cash and prizes just for wearing their life jackets this week.

The Nevada Division of Wildlife is randomly stopping boats until Labor Day on all Nevada waters and rewarding boat operators whose passengers are all wearing life jackets.

So far, boating officers have given away three $1,000 prizes, including one at Sand Harbor on the Fourth of July.

The gifts are part of the “It Pays To Wear Your Life Jacket” program, to which Nevada appropriated $10,000 for the education and promotion of safe boating.

One hundred prizes, including Port of Subs and Blockbuster gift certificates, have been awarded across the state since the program started Memorial Day weekend. In addition to cash prizes there are still certificates to be awarded such as three-day, two-night stays at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and the Silver Legacy in Reno.

Fred Messmann, Nevada boating law administrator, said the program is the first of its kind in the country. He said Tahoe boaters, like most around the country, put themselves in danger by not wearing life preservers.

California law requires children 12 and younger to wear life jackets on Lake Tahoe. A similar law was passed by Nevada legislators this year, but won’t go into effect until Oct. 1.

Messmann said 90 percent of the 800 people who died in boating-related accidents last year weren’t wearing life jackets.

He said he hasn’t seen a big increase in the number of people wearing them since the program began, but said he’s pleased to plant the seed of safety in boaters’ minds.

“If I’m no more successful than just getting people to think about wearing a life jacket then this program will be a benefit,” he said. “Positive reinforcement is a great motivator, and if we’ve saved just one life by initiating this program, then we know we’re all doing our jobs.”

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