2003 California Boating Safety Report

Section 4

Boating Safety Education Programs

Students learn techniques through dry-land instruction before heading out onto the waterThe Safety and Education Units have two primary objectives to support the California Division of Boating and Waterways’ mission:

•  To provide accessible boating safety education for youths and adults

•  To educate and protect youth operators by developing and distributing boating and aquatic safety material to California schools.

The Department relies on partnerships with several organizations (educational institutions, aquatic centers, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons) to provide boating safety education.  The Department provides educational institutions with free course materials on boating and aquatic safety information.  Aquatic centers that offer on-the-water safety education are eligible for Department grants and scholarships.  Last year, these partnerships provided 693,000 individuals with boating safety education.

A.  Educational Outreach to School-Age Children


The Department developed the AquaSMART curriculum to educate school-age children about water safety.  The course is a three-part series for K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 grades.  Course materials cover a variety of topics involving boating and aquatic safety.  Nearly 500,000 elementary school students benefit from the AquaSMART education programs annually.

The Department also disseminates the AquaSMART Boating program for high school students.  Key safety concerns identified by accident statistics are incorporated into the curriculum.  Four types of boating are addressed:  personal watercraft, powerboating, sailing, and paddling.  The course is available to schools, aquatic centers, and youth organizations.  In 2003, over 20,000 high school students were educated using the AquaSMART Boating program.

Poster Contest

Public and private school children in the K-8 grade levels are invited every year to participate in the Department’s Safe & Wise Water Ways poster calendar contest.  It is the Department’s philosophy that safety lessons learned and practiced at an early age serve to protect individuals throughout their lifetime.  A poster contest designed to promote boating and aquatic safety among children is a good way to convey such lessons.

A contest advertisement is sent directly to all California elementary and middle schools.  Entry information is also posted on our Department web site, www.boatsmarter.com, and promoted by local radio and/or television stations.  Nine statewide winning entries are chosen (one for each grade level) and featured on an annual poster calendar produced and distributed by the Department.

Corporate sponsors contribute to the success of this program by providing awards for the winners.  In 2003, sponsors included Kawasaki, Northern California Marine Association, Radio Disney, Southern California Marine Association and Yamaha.  Prizes are distributed when Department representatives and our boating safety puppet show — AquaSMART Live! — personally congratulates the poster contest winners.  AquaSMART Live! is a professionally produced multimedia program designed to teach students how to stay safe in and around California waterways.  Splasher the Frog hosts the show.  Besides congratulating the winner and the school, he shows them what can happen if we fail to practice safety in and around the water using the AquaSMART Stunt Dummies.

The uniqueness of this program is that it allows different State organizations to work together as a group to reach one goal — boating and water safety.  The State provides the information to schools, the teachers become the program directors, and children have the opportunity to become teachers.

The award-winning poster contest is now in its 11th year and most recently won the 2002 National Safe Boating Council’s Boating Education Advancement Award.  In addition, although this program is not mandatory, many teachers find it important enough to incorporate it into their already demanding curriculum requirements.

Interactive Tools

The Department uses SeaMore and Sea Lily, two interactive robotic boats, to communicate boating and water safety information to children and adults at safety fairs, schools, or boating events.  These boats are available to boating safety organizations and marine law enforcement agencies.

B.  Educational Outreach to the General Public

Aquatic Center Grant Program

The Department provides grant monies to aquatic centers throughout the state to enhance their programs.  Grants can be used either for scholarships or for the purchase of equipment to be used in boating and education classes.  This grant program allows the Department to increase the number of boaters who receive hands-on boating safety training.

Aquatic centers, operated by universities, cities, counties, and nonprofit organizations, provide on-the-water boating safety education in kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, power boating, sailing, windsurfing, and personal watercraft operation.  These programs target university students, the general public, persons with disabilities, and disadvantaged youths.

During the 2003/04 fiscal year, the Department allocated $620,000 in grants to 36 aquatic centers, which then provided nearly 120,000 individuals with hands-on aquatic and boating education.

Home Study Course

California Boating: A Course for Safe Boating is a free correspondence course.  This course is designed for home study, allowing students to progress at their own pace.  This comprehensive course covers State and federal boating law, rules of the road, boat handling, required and recommended equipment, navigational aids, and other topics.  The revised course for 2003/3004 contains an optional exam to be completed on a Scantron form and mailed to the Department for grading.  Those who pass the course with a score of 80% or better are awarded with certificates that are recognized by many insurance companies for boat insurance discounts.  In 2003, about 40,000 copies of California Boating were distributed to the general public.  Of these, 2,040 exams were completed and mailed to the Department, with a passing rate of 92%.

Many boating organizations, marine dealers, and aquatic centers use the California Boating course with their audiences as an introduction to safety for new boaters.  Marine law enforcement units also like to hand them out waterside during their patrols and at community service events.

Dangerous life jackets from Trade-In EventNational Safe Boating Week

Each year, the President and the Governor proclaim the week before Memorial Day as National Safe Boating Week.  The Department organizes a number of boating safety events during this week designed not only to promote safe boating, but also to promote the sport of boating.  Activities featured during this week include:

•  Highlights of annual boating accident statistics

•  News releases featuring boating safety tips

•  Interviews with the media

•  Life jacket trade-ins

In 2003, the Department was asked by the National Safe Boating Council to host one of two National events—the other took place in New York City.  The National Safe Boating Week kick-off event took place at Burton Chace Park in Marina Del Rey.  It included representatives from the National Safe Boating Council, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Beaches and Harbors, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Lifeguards and the California Secretary for Resources.  Several rescue demonstrations were held, showing the process of rescuing someone out on the waterway.  Rescue boats were dispatched to the site, and a helicopter from the Los Angeles County Lifeguards dropped a rescuer into the water to pull the victim to a boat and safely onboard.  A number of radio stations conducted live station appearances and a total of 100 announcements were made in the Los Angeles area promoting the event.  Other features: two Lakers’ Girls were available to sign autographs, a 10-second ad playing on radio stations throughout the country promoting National Safe Boating Week and the DBW Safety team (who promote boating and water safety) made their debut at this event.    Several organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, UCLA’s Aquatic Center and the Pat McCormick Foundation also aided in the National effort to “Boat Smart. Boat Safe. Wear It.”

Boat Show displayBoat Shows

California state law does not require boaters to be licensed, nor does it require them to take a boating safety course.  As a consequence, a significant number of accidents and deaths occur.  This is why boat shows are so critical.

Boat shows provide an excellent arena in which the Department and law enforcement officials can reduce accident and fatality numbers by educating the public on boating and water safety by handing out pamphlets, scheduling boating safety puppet shows, giving out promotional items with inscribed boating safety messages, or simply answering questions.

Boat shows give boaters the chance to talk to representatives of local law enforcement agencies, their boating associations, and the State, and see them working together to provide safer recreational waterways.

Media Outreach to Boaters

California’s Multimedia Boating Safety Awareness Campaign

Boaters across the state were exposed to safety messages as part of the boating environment on billboards, all-weather posters, and marina trash receptacles and over the airwaves.  In fact, billboards and radio messages have been used to educate California boater since 1998.

In the summer of 2003, the outdoor media campaign’s Road Signs for the Waterways launched the Safe Boating is BIG FUN Safety Team program.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Safe Boating is BIG FUN recreational vehicle carried the Department’s Safety Team, making appearances at nearly 40 marinas and launching ramps statewide to help raise boaters’ awareness of safety concerns and solutions, and lower the boating accident and injury rate in California.  Boating information was distributed along with prizes for playing the Safety Trivia Quiz were distributed at all of the Safety Team’s events.

Because many boaters do not perceive themselves as failing to practice boating safety, the Department developed and continues to place positive messages encouraging defensive boat operation.  Just as road signs on the highways caution drivers to watch out for hazards on the roads, similar signs for the waterways can be used to caution boaters of the hazards that are often present when boating.  Many of the signs use humor to convey a safety message in an entertaining manner.  In 2003, the Department added messages about safe speed and sober boating to its Road Sign campaign.  Overall, the campaign impacted 2 million boaters.

Reinforcement came during the summer’s holiday weekends of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day on mobile billboards decorated with the Road Signs for the Waterways.  The traveling billboards placed at marinas and park entrances throughout California reminded boaters of safety on the waterways.

The Department also continued to target anglers with safety messages in popular fishing publications between April and September across the state, reaching nearly 300,000 anglers and boaters.

The campaign’s multi-media approach ensures that safety messages reach boaters at the critical moment, just before, and as, they hit the water.

Boating Safety Awareness Radio Campaign

In conjunction with the Department’s outdoor media campaign, the Department continues a statewide radio campaign, which highlights the following safety tips:

•  The importance of wearing life jackets

•  The dangers of mixing alcohol and boating

•  River safety

•  Environmental Stewardship — Keep it Clean When You Boat

•  Overall “common sense” boating message that combines general boating safety preparedness

•  Responsible operation with an emphasis on defensive driving

•  Taking a boating safety course.

The campaign runs year-round in Southern California and from May through October statewide, targeting California’s top ten boating accident areas.  Approximately 35 radio stations across the State air safety messages reminding boaters to “Boat Smart from the Start.”

Televised Message Campaign

In 2003, KCRA/KQCA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, partnered with the Department to produce a new 30-second public service announcement for television promoting safe boating and taking a boating safety course in its viewing area in Northern California.

Special Programs

In June 2003, the Department participated in The Best of California (TBOC) statewide television series with integrated boating safety messages that encouraged viewers to wear a life jacket while fishing or to be cautious of carbon monoxide poisoning when on a houseboat.  In addition to television, the Department also received a one-page micro site on TBOC’s Web page.  At the site, visitors found safety messages and information on how to receive free online education materials from the Department, along with links to other helpful Websites.

Special Awards

•  Road Signs for the Waterways won first place in the Media Contest at the 2003 International Boating and Water Safety Summit.

•  The National Safe Boating Council awarded the Department a 2003 Silver Burgee for the “Safety Pirate” PSA, which was created by the Department for use as a national public service announcement made available to all states on the Council’s Website.  This radio spot has also been used internationally in Europe and Australia.

•  In 2003, public relations firm Glass McClure received the National Public Service award for their work on the Department’s boating safety campaign.

C.  Public Information Education through Pamphlets

Spanish PWC brochureIn 2003, the Department distributed 1.2 million copies of boating safety literature to the public.  The Department’s Public Information Unit publishes and distributes more than 50 different boating safety publications.  The publications cover a variety of topics emphasizing boating safety on California waterways and are also available on the department’s websites, www.dbw.ca.gov or www.boatsmarter.com.

Materials focus on subjects such as key safety issues for individual waterways, required equipment, and operational laws.  The unit mails these publications directly to individuals and provides various organizations with materials for distribution.  Department representatives also attend numerous safety fairs and boat shows, distributing literature and answering questions.  Currently, the Department of Motor Vehicles mails the Division of Boating and Waterways’ safety brochures with each new vessel registration and each renewal.

D.  Abandoned Watercraft Removal Program

The Department administers a program for the removal of abandoned watercraft and substantial navigational hazards from California’s waterways.  For fiscal year 2002/03, $750,000 was available to local agencies.  The Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund (AWAF) program grants funds to local public agencies for the removal, storage, and disposal of these navigational hazards.  In 2003, the Department made the following grants: