Letter to the Editor: Ordinance 1222- Required Wearing of Personal Flotation Devices

Friday, July 9, 2021

To the Editor:

Lifejackets save lives.

Our beautiful part of the country, with its abundant lakes, rivers, and our extraordinary Puget Sound, affords us incredible opportunities to us to get out on the water.

All too frequently, outings on the waters of our state result in preventable tragedy. Nearly all of the fatalities on the waters of our region could have be prevented if the victim had been wearing a life jacket.

In an effort to prevent further tragedy, I sponsored Ordinance 1222 - Required Wearing of Personal Flotation Devices, Mandating Users of Human Powered Watercraft to Wear U.S. Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Devices.

It was passed by the Lake Forest Park City Council On May 13th, by a vote of 6-0.

Lake Forest Park law now requires users of “Human powered watercraft” to wear at all times a Coast Guard approved life jacket, also called a personal floatation device or PFD.

“Human powered watercraft” includes, but is not limited to: sailboats (under 20 feet in length), sailboards, paddleboards, water cycles, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, rowboats and rowing shells.

This ordinance is intended to be about outreach, awareness and education, and the first violation will result in educational outreach and a warning. Subsequent offences will result in a citation.

This is not like the state helmet law- if someone chooses not wear a helmet (and they should wear one!), they are not placing a first responder in danger. Failing to wear a lifejacket out on the water can place a first responder's life in jeopardy.

The city will be working on programs for life jacket accessibility and education about water safety at several waterfront access points.

I sincerely hope this ordinance will help everyone better understand the dangers of the water and encourage everyone to wear a life jacket.

Be safe on the water!

Tom French
Vice Chair, Lake Forest Park City Council


Anonymous,  July 10, 2021 at 7:06 PM  

Why stop at human-powered watercraft and sailboats under 20 feet? Riders on jetskis and even much larger powerboats can also find themselves in the water and should also be forced to wear personal flotation devices at all times when on the water, as well. A common way power-boaters find themselves in the water is when they are drunk and relieving themselves over the side of the boat. After a drunk power-boater runs down a human-powered craft, at least with a PFD on it, the bloodied corpse, chopped up by the propeller, will likely be easier for authorities to recover if it is still floating on the surface.

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