Wear that darn PFD!!!

When it comes to government regulations, I’m solidly on the Libertarian side of the political spectrum most of the time. Sure there are some very good regulations and there are regulations only a bureaucrat could think up or enact. Currently, the regulators are in control. More than 20,000 federal regulations have been added to the books since Obama took over as president.

Many of those probably don’t have a direct affect on you or me, but indirectly and cumulatively, all of them impact all of us to one degree or another. What’s the alternative?
The alternative is for people to behave themselves well enough to not splash their activity across the regulator’s radar screen. The use of life jackets a.k.a. Personal Flotation Devises a.k.a. PFDs is a perfect example.

Anyone with a half ounce of sense can understand a person wearing a PFD during a boating mishap is much more likely to survive than a person not so adorned. Wearing seat belts saves lives. Driving moderate speeds makes perfect sense.

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Regardless of these seemingly common sense and easy to apply options, there are plenty of people who drive too fast, don’t regularly wear seat belts and go boating without wearing their PFD. And for every one of these people tempting fate, there’s a team of regulators watching over their shoulder knowing each incident gives them more power to clamp down on the citizens participating in unsafe activities.

There are many organization in the US promoting boating and safe boating. These organizations realize one of the obstacles to even greater participation in boating is the regulatory environment boaters already have to abide. Each new regulation decreases interest and often causes active boaters to abandon the activity all together.

To offset this, most of these groups sponsor educational campaigns to boost awareness of things they can voluntarily do to keep the government regulators off their backs.

A recent survey of recreational boaters found the North American Safe Boating Campaign continues to have a positive impact on boater behavior. The year long campaign promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of voluntary life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme, Wear It!

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The annual Wear It! Awareness Survey conducted by the National Safe Boating Council sought to determine the campaign’s effectiveness, specifically the impact on life jacket wear, attitudes and safety behavior of boaters.

“It is crucial to get an accurate view of how boaters are behaving when preparing or getting on the water and how they feel about wearing life jackets,” said Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council.

Leveraging a team of trained volunteers, 1,072 on-site surveys were collected in 12 different states between late April and early September, 2015. Based on the locations’ level of Wear It! campaign activity, the bodies of water were classified as no, medium or high activity.

“The survey reinforces the importance of the Wear It! campaign’s educational efforts on new, comfortable styles of life jackets, including inflatable life jackets,” said Johnson.
Key survey findings:

  • Boaters in locations with High Campaign activity wear their life jackets “always or most of the time” with a 90 percent confidence level.
  • Boaters who are aware of the Wear It! campaign and recognize the Wear It! logo come from High Campaign activity locations.
  • Those surveyed from High Campaign locations agree with the statement; “I worry about other boaters and their unsafe practices.”
  • Boaters who wear their life jackets “always or most of the time” believe drowning fatalities among boating accidents would decrease if more people wore life jackets.
  • Top two main barriers to using life jackets are, discomfort and no legal requirement to wear one.
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This survey helps demonstrate the impact of the Wear It! message, especially in no campaign activity locations, to prevent future fatalities by increasing the number of people wearing life jackets. It also shows educational efforts can work to keep government regulators off the backs of boaters.

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Mike Schoonveldhttp://www.brother-nature.com
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website www.brother-nature.com or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at www.bronature.com

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