2003 California Boating Safety Report

Section 5

2003 Program Enhancements, Initiatives, and New Laws



Practicing for a sailboat raceA.  New Laws

Boating Safety Course

State law provides that any person convicted of any moving violation in the Harbors and Navigation Code, the Federal Rules of the Road and regulations adopted by the Division of Boating and Waterways, while operating a vessel, shall be ordered by the court to complete and pass a boating safety course approved by the Department.  Proof of completion and passage of the course must be submitted to the court within seven months of the time of conviction.

PWC Operation

As of January 1, 2003, the prohibition hours for personal watercraft operation have been adjusted to mirror the hours of prohibited water skiing.  Personal watercraft operation and water skiing are prohibited from sunset to sunrise.

Life Jacket Use

Persons using any underwater maneuvering device are exempt from wearing a personal flotation device.  An underwater maneuvering device is any towed or self-powered apparatus designed for underwater use that a person can pilot through diving, turning, and surfacing maneuvers.

False Search and Rescue Calls

Under existing law, it is a misdemeanor for a person to knowingly make a false report concerning an emergency to a governmental agency where the emergency results in, or could result in, the response of a public official in an emergency aircraft or vessel.  The law now further provides that it is a felony for any individual to report, or cause any report to be made, to any state or local government agency that an emergency exists, if that individual knows or should know that the response to the report is likely to cause death or great bodily injury and such injury or death is sustained by any person as a result of the false report.

Vessel Sewage

A state or local peace officer who reasonably suspects that a vessel is discharging sewage in an area where the discharge is prohibited may board that vessel if the owner or operator is aboard, for the purpose of inspecting the marine sanitation device for proper operation and placing a dye tablet in the holding tank.

B.  Life Jacket Use

•  The Department continues the Life Jacket Loan Program aimed at increasing the use of life jackets by everyone in the community planning a boating or other waterside activity. The life jacket loan program promotes the use of life jackets by offering free short term life jacket use for the public. The Department has partnered with fire stations in the Greater Sacramento area to house and check out life jackets to the public.  Fire stations have proved to be convenient locations where residents can go to borrow life jackets.  One fire station in Elk Grove reported 168 loans to the public from May through August 2003.  The success and popularity of the program for this Elk Grove station has prompted them to expand the program to a second fire station in their district.

•  The Department continues its T-Shirt Program, aimed at increasing the use of life jackets by children.  Marine enforcement units, U.S. Coast Guard Stations, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas, and U.S. Power Squadrons are supplied with T-shirts for children.  The shirts are used to reward children under the age of 13 found wearing their life jacket while boating.  This popular program recognizes safe behavior and reinforces continued use of life jackets by this target group.

•  The Department continues a radio ad campaign informing boaters of new laws requiring that persons aboard PWC, persons towed behind boats, and children under 13 on vessels 26 feet or less to wear life jackets.  This safety message is being aired on radio stations throughout California and targets boaters in areas where high numbers of accidents occur.

•  The Department continues placing billboards in areas where accidents are most prevalent and has added to this outreach effort by placing safety messages on posters and refuse barrels at marinas.  These “road signs for the waterways,” increase boating safety awareness throughout the State.

•  The Department continues promoting the use of life jackets at safety fairs and boat shows throughout the state, through the annual Safe & Wise Water Ways poster contest for children, and at National Safe Boating Week events.  In 2003, KCRA/KQCA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, partnered with the Department to produce new a 30-second public service announcement for television promoting safe boating and taking a boating safety course in its viewing area in Northern California.

•  In 2003, the Department partnered with Infinity Broadcasting, Nor Cal Water, and AM/PM Mini-Marts to remind their collective clients in Northern California to “Get Hooked on H2O” and “Boat Smart from the Start…Wear Your Life Jacket.”  An estimated 12 million impressions were made on clients as the messages traveled the airwaves and were viewed at purchase points.

C.  Personal Watercraft

•  The Department distributes a short course on PWC operation and safe boat handling, and last year, made it available online.  The course is intended for PWC operators of all ages and is available to the general public.  It is designed so that it can easily be incorporated into existing safety programs offered by organizations such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, marine law enforcement agencies, and aquatic centers.  There is a 20-question exam at the end of the booklet to self-test on the material covered.  The promotion of safe operation of PWC is a component of the Department’s outdoor media campaign. This basic course does not earn a certificate, but is simply a tool to introduce new PWC operators to laws, requirements, and important safety issues associated with their vessels.  Those who complete the quiz online are rewarded with access to some boating-themed screensavers.

A student learns how to properly operate a PWC•  The Department continues to offer a PWC-handling course specifically for law enforcement.  This course has been P.O.S.T.-certified.

•  The Department continues a radio ad campaign informing boaters of the new laws requiring that persons aboard PWC wear life jackets.  This safety message is being aired on radio stations throughout California and targets boaters in high accident areas.

D.  Youth Operator Safety

•  The AquaSMART Boating program for high school students continues to be distributed to schools throughout California.  This course incorporates key safety concerns identified by accident statistics.  Four types of boating are addressed: personal watercraft, power boating, sailing, and paddling.  The course is available to schools, aquatic centers, and youth organizations.

•  The curriculum for youth programs includes information on the dangers of alcohol and drug use, especially when boating.  Zero tolerance is emphasized anyone engaged in aquatic recreation.

E.  Alcohol

•  The Department’s radio campaign continues to promote the dangers of drinking alcohol while boating.  This safety message is airing on radio stations throughout California and targets boaters in areas with the highest accident rates.

•  The Department continues to notify law enforcement agencies statewide about alcohol-related fatalities and encourage them to strengthen their educational and enforcement efforts in this area.  The Department reinforces this message at all of its law enforcement training classes.

•  The Department’s “Get H2Ooked on Sober Boating” T-Shirt promotion continued at boat shows and other outreach venues throughout the state.

F.  Carbon Monoxide Education

•  In 2003, the Department produced a brochure to educate boaters of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning which also includes a warning sticker for a boat’s transom.  The brochure is distributed at boat shows, safety fairs, and other events and is also available on the Department’s Website.

•  The Department is producing both a TV and a radio PSA to increase awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning.

•  The Department is improving the collection of carbon monoxide boating accident data by increasing training to law enforcement officers who investigate accidents.

G.  Improved Internet Access

•  The AquaSMART Internet education pages (www.dbw.ca.gov/aquasmart) supplement the Department’s AquaSMART curriculum series.  The design is bright and content addresses boating safety in a fun manner, as the web page is targeted primarily at children exposed to the AquaSMART curriculum series.  The secondary audience includes teachers, parents, and other boaters.  A link to the Department’s homepage is provided for persons seeking more detailed boating safety information.

•  The Department experiences continued success with its web page, www.boatsmarter.com.  This web page is publicized through the Department’s radio and outdoor media campaign and is easy to remember.  Visitors to the site can click on “road sign” billboards for more information on boating safety.

H.  Other Safety Enhancements

•  In 2003, the Department partnered with Infinity Broadcasting, Nor Cal Water, and Chevron to remind their collective clients/audiences in Northern California to “Get Hooked on H2O” and “Boat Smart from the Start…Wear Your Life Jacket.”  During the months of May, July, and August, radio stations KNCI and KHTK ran radio announcements over three-week spans for the major holidays of Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.  These announcements proclaimed boating safety messages and directed listeners to Chevron stations to obtain safety literature and purchase Nor Cal water.  Three live remote broadcasts were sponsored by the Department and produced by KNCI to take boating material to the public and offer a life jacket trade-in – old for new.  Chevron stations in the Greater Sacramento area offered the pamphlet, “ABC’s of California Boating Law,” to their customers and hosted the live remote broadcasts.  An estimated 30 million message impressions were made in this partnership via the airwaves and were viewed at purchase points.

•  In 2003, the Department sponsored 40 AquaSMART Live performances.  The traveling puppet show is hosted by Splasher the Frog, mascot of the AquaSMART program.  AquaSMART Live has two programs for grades K-3 and 4-6.  The K-3 program uses stunt dummies to demonstrate to the children what can happen when you do not play safe in and around the water.  The 4-6 program is a game show format where two teams compete for prizes while learning how to stay safe in and around the water.

•  To further enhance river safety, the Department offers an assortment of river guides to California rivers that have been designated as boating trails.  The Department continues to warn boaters about hazardous water conditions on California’s rivers, especially during spring and early summer when water levels are high from snow pack run-off.

•  The Department’s new water skiing safety video is now in distribution.  The updated version includes not only traditional water skiing activities, but also wake boarding, knee boarding, inner tubing, and air chair activities.

•  The Department continues outreach efforts to anglers by placing safety articles and messages in fishing publications throughout the state.

•  The Law Enforcement Unit continues to conduct the Accident Reconstruction Course on the water, providing staged accidents for reconstruction by students.  Many law enforcement officers believe this course helps them reconstruct accidents more accurately.

•  The Department produced two new radio PSAs for its “The Safety Pirate” radio series on angler safety and Homeland Security for distribution through the National Safe Boating Council.

•  A television PSA on boating and alcohol was distributed to TV stations throughout the state.

Spanish alcohol brochureSpanish Outreach Campaign

California has a large Spanish-speaking population who account for a disproportionately high number of water-related accidents.  In order to address this problem, the Department created a Spanish Website, an alcohol public service announcement, and translated some of the Department’s publications into Spanish: 1) ABC’s of the California Boating Law, 2) Drowning Prevention Checklist 3) Facts About Boating and Alcohol, 4) Rescue Breathing Card, 5) Safe Boating Hints for Personal Flotation Devices, and 6) Safe Boating Hints for Personal Watercraft.

The Spanish Website and the alcohol PSA were created to enhance the effectiveness of the Department’s Spanish outreach campaign.  The Website contains information such as: 1) How to register your boat, 2) boating law, 3) safety hints, 4) resources, 5) how/when to report an accident, 6) rules of the road, and 7) the marking system.  There is also a link to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor’s Spanish Websites.

By reaching this Spanish-speaking population, the Department hopes to reduce the number of water-related accidents in which they are involved.

Life Jacket Trade-In

The life jacket trade-in program continued in grander scope for National Safe Boating week of 2003. The Department partnered with Infinity Broadcasting and six greater Sacramento area Sam’s Club stores to host consecutive trade-ins.  Infinity Broadcasting aired promotion for the events on their family of stations in the Sacramento area market and held a live remote broadcast at one of the stores during the event.

Life jackets were given free to the first 50 persons at each store who brought in their old deteriorated life vests during a two-hour window.  The adult-sized jackets were donated by Mustang Survival.  Children’s life jackets were  obtained at discounted rates from Stearns, FINIS, and K-Mart.  Safety experts at each location examined the life jackets brought in to determine if they were serviceable or in need of replacement.  A limit of one free life jacket was allowed per family while supplies lasted.  For others, Sam’s Club handed out $10 discount coupons toward the purchase of a new life jacket.

A second life jacket trade-in with Infinity Broadcasting, was conducted at a Folsom Lake media day the Department participates in each Memorial Day with California State Parks. In addition to the trade-in and broadcast, there was an information booth on boating safety, rescue demonstrations by marine law enforcement and firefighters, vessel safety checks by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and a simulated vessel rescue with an airdrop demonstration by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A total of 350 new life jackets were exchanged for those found to be unserviceable during these trade-in events.

Curriculum Revision

The Department began revision of its AquaSMART curriculum series.  The curriculum for Kindergarten-Second Grade was updated with the new title “Champion of the Waterways.”  AquaSMART hero Splasher the Frog guides students through the 10 AquaSMART lessons on water and boating safety.  The program consists of a video and teacher’s guide with reproducible student worksheets.  The video is also available in Spanish along with a set of reproducible Spanish student worksheets.  The teacher’s guide also contains a chart indicating how the lessons fit into the California Curriculum Standards, a recommended reading list, and a list of additional video resources.

Curriculum materials are made available to schools, youth groups, aquatic centers, and other educators at no cost.  Revisions will continue through the series of three elementary school programs and high school program.

ABC Radio San Francisco

The Department ran a San Francisco region summer safe boating campaign from June to August 2003.  Three stations – KGO, KSFO, and KMKY (Radio Disney) – were contracted to run boating safety promotional messages on a prime-time schedule.  The KGO and KSFO stations showcased a link from their Websites to the Department’s Website, generating a million page views each month.  Radio Disney featured the Department’s material and the AquaSMART campaign at three remote appearances.  At the three Radio Disney venues, the Department distributed 100 children’s life jackets (donated by Marine Max),  and copies of the Department’s boating safety tips and materials were distributed to visitors of the Radio Disney booth.

Safe Kids Coalition

The Department participates on the Greater Sacramento Safe Kids Coalition under the Drowning Prevention subcommittee.  As a river city that also has a number of lakes and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in close proximity, Sacramento has a need to protect its children from drowning when boating or recreating near the water.  The Department provides educational materials for outreach to the community and expertise on open water activities and incidents.