2005 California Boating Safety Report

Section 4

Boating Safety Education Programs

The Safety and Education Units have two primary objectives to support the California Division of Boating and Waterways’ mission:

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 over 573,000 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, power boating, sailing, and paddling. The course is available to schools, aquatic centers, and youth organizations.

AquaSMART Curriculum Revision

The Department continues its revision of the AquaSMART curriculum series. The curriculum for Third-Fifth Grades (AquaSMART Live!) was completed. The new program takes the format of an interactive game show with three rounds of fun-filled action and two physical challenges.

Each curriculum package guides students through the ten AquaSMART lessons. The program series consists of a video and teacher’s guide with reproducible student worksheets for each level. For grades K-2 and 3-5, the video is also available in Spanish along with a set of reproducible Spanish student worksheets. The teacher’s guides also contain 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 and work is being done now on the program for grades 6-8.

AquaSMART Live!

AquaSMART Live!, the Department’s companion program to the AquaSMART series for elementary schools, 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 by using the AquaSMART Stunt Dummies. In 2005, the program served 75 schools statewide and reached approximately 45,000 children.

There are two distinct shows for grades K-3 and 4-6. The show for K-3 grades uses stunt dummies to demonstrate to the children what can happen when you do not play safe in and around the water. The show for grades 4-6 is in a game show format where two teams compete for prizes while learning how to stay safe in and around the waters. These shows give students who might not be using the AquaSMART curriculum, exposure to the most important parts of water safety.

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 2005, 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.

The uniqueness of the poster contest 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. Lastly, although this program is not mandatory, many teachers find it important enough to incorporate it into their already demanding curriculum requirements.

The award-winning poster contest is now in its 13th year.

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 on loan 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 2004/05 fiscal year, the Department allocated $624,000 in grants to 31 aquatic centers, which then provided nearly 80,000 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 course 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 2005, about 35,000 copies of California Boating were distributed to the general public. There were 1,869 exams completed and mailed to the Department in 2005 with a passing rate of 95%.

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.

National 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:

The Department partnered with aquatic centers throughout the state to put on boating safety events including on-the-water safety instruction.

Tri-State Boating Safety Fair

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the California Division of Boating and Waterways and the Nevada Department of Wildlife held their 2nd annual Tri-State Boating Safety Fair on May 7, 2005. The mission of the safety fair if to promote safe and knowledgeable recreational boating on the Colorado River through the combined educational and enforcement resources of Arizona, California and Nevada. It introduces visitors to the different state laws that govern use the Colorado River. Visitors also learn about boating dangers, such as excessive speed, alcohol abuse on the water and carbon monoxide poisoning. Activities at the fair include an opportunity to win a speedboat, search and rescue demonstrations, distribution of boating safety bags, and courtesy vessel safety checks.

In 2005, the following also took place:

Promotion of the safety fair, as well as boating safety messages were transmitted by various media outlets: radio (promotional placements and on site live feeds), TV & print, website (website buttons, directing web users to the Tri-State boating safety site, were placed on a myriad of agencies web sites) and promotional flyers.

This boating safety fair is a great example of how public and private sectors can partner to benefit the recreational boaters of the Colorado River. As we all work together, boating safety is promoted and the Colorado River becomes a safer place to recreate.

Boat 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.

In 2004/05, the Department attended over 15 events and reached over 30,000 boaters. Boaters are presented with a variety of boating safety messages, promotional materials, and brochures.

Spanish Outreach

In order to better serve California’s growing Spanish-speaking population, the Department continues to distribute Spanish-language boating and water safety resources. Boaters can order copies of Spanish translations of selected Department publications, or view and download them on Boating and Waterways’ Spanish Website, at www.dbw.ca.gov/Espanol.

Visitors to the sites can also access information on the navigational “rules of the road,” recent changes to boating law, how to register a boat, marine pollution prevention, canal safety, and more.

In addition, the Department also has free Spanish-language curriculum material which meets California curriculum standards for the K-2 and 3-5 grade levels. Available to any school, the curriculum contains a teacher’s guide, reproducible activity sheets and a video.

In 2005, a Sacramento Univision television station, gave the Department the opportunity to relay boating safety information to the Spanish-speaking community. Pre-recorded and live feed interviews took place during the summer months.

Safety Media Campaign to Boaters

California’s Multimedia Boating Safety Awareness Campaign

Boaters across the state are exposed to safety messages as part of the boating environment on outdoor signs such as, billboards, posters, and marina trash receptacles, as well as over the airwaves. In fact, the outdoor billboard and radio campaigns have been used to educate California boaters since 1998.

Because many boaters do not perceive themselves as failing to practice boating safety, the Campaign calls attention to 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 are posted to caution boaters and raise awareness for safer practices when boating. This is the Department’s Road Signs for the Waterways campaign. Many of the signs use humor to convey a safety message in an entertaining manner. Overall, the campaign impacts 2 million boaters each year.

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

The Campaign’s multimedia 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 outdoor component of the media campaign, DBW maintains a statewide radio campaign highlighting the following safety tips:

With the evolution of iPods and satellite radio, among other new technology, traditional radio stations shortened their commercial breaks to stay competitive. Therefore, two of the 2004 spots, Bev Lite and CO Kills, were converted into 30-second spots and two new 30-second spots, Angler Jack and No Brakes, were created. These new spots were created to increase life jacket use for anglers (see Radio & Television Campaign for Anglers) and safe speed respectively. These spots combined a humorous approach with a safe boating message.

Television Boating Safety Promotion

Premiering Labor Day 2005, the campaign ventured into new territory and forged a partnership between a local television news program, a local aquatic center and the Division of Boating and Waterways. Its purpose was to heighten awareness of boating safety in the San Diego area prior to the holiday weekend. This investment garnered station-produced “Safety Announcements” that aired during the Morning local newscast throughout the week leading up to the holiday weekend, prime placement on the station’s website for prize giveaways, and culminated with “live” cut-in reporting during the Friday morning newscast featuring the Mission Bay Aquatic Center and an on-site life jacket giveaway.

Radio and Television Campaign to Anglers

The 2004 boating accident statistics revealed that one-third of boating fatalities in California were fishing related. Of these victims, all drowned and the majority were not wearing a life jacket.

Because of these findings, the Department decided to create a radio and television safety campaign specific to anglers. The key message encouraged anglers to not only wear life jackets when underway to fish, but also to continue to wear them while fishing.

In 2005, the Angler Jack and his Life Jacket television spot aired on the Outdoor Life Network and ESPN 2 over a nine-week period between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. during fishing-related programming. Additionally, a complementary Angler Jack radio message was created and aired during fishing programs throughout the summer in four of California’s major boating markets. The spot ran for 14 weeks in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles and 26 weeks in Sacramento.

DBW’s Safety Team

During the 2005 boating season, the Campaign’s Safety Team continued its outreach from Memorial Day to Labor Day with the Safe Boating is BIG FUN recreational vehicle making appearances at more than 40 marinas and launching ramps statewide. Boating information was distributed along with prizes for playing the Safety Trivia Quiz at all of the Safety Team’s events. Over 2,000 quizzes were taken during the promotional period. The Team also went to additional locations in 2005 to reach even more boaters and water sport enthusiasts and created a new website, www.safeboatingisbigfun.com, to promote its appearances and the prize giveaways.

All the radio stations participating in DBW’s Safety Campaign run promotional announcements promoting the Safety Team’s appearances at local waterways. Stations also promote these appearances and the Division of Boating and Waterways on their stations’ websites. Each station then brings their promotional set-up—a station vehicle, tent promotional items and on occasion remote broadcast from the event. Life jackets and free DBW branded educational items are also distributed in fun ways like spinning the prize wheel and having people answer trivia questions.

Life Jacket Use

Life Jacket Loan Program

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. In 2005, additional fire districts in Placer and San Joaquin Counties joined the program. A current list of loan locations can be found on the DBW website at http://dbw.ca.gov/lifejacket.asp.

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 jackets while boating. This popular program recognizes safe behavior and reinforces continued use of life jackets by this target.

Life Jacket Trade-In

The life jacket trade-in program continued for National Safe Boating Week of 2005. The Department partnered with Radio Disney, Infinity Broadcasting and 11 Sam’s Club stores statewide to host consecutive trade-ins. Radio Disney and Infinity Broadcasting aired promotion for the events on their family of stations and held live remote broadcasts at five of the stores during the event. Life jackets were offered free to the first 50 persons at each store who brought in their old deteriorated life vests during a two-hour window.

Emphasis was placed on ensuring children’s life jackets were the right size, fit properly, and were in good condition. Sam’s Club donated life jackets at many participating locations for the event. Safe Kids Greater Sacramento also donated life jackets for children in the Sacramento area and these were distributed at five Sacramento region Sam’s Clubs. Additional children’s life jackets were obtained at discounted rates from Stearns and FINIS. Safety experts from the Department, law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary were at each location to examine 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 additional requests, Sam’s Club handed out $10 discount coupons toward the purchase of a new life jacket.

Nearly 300 new life jackets were exchanged for those found to be unserviceable during these trade-in events. Many children’s life jackets traded-in were in good condition, but had been outgrown. These still good life jackets were used to supplement the stock at life jacket loan stations.

Get Hooked on H2O

In 2005, the Department partnered with Infinity Broadcasting, 1470 Radio Disney, Nor Cal Water, and Shell Oil 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 through September, radio stations KNCI and KIID 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 Shell 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, worn out for new. Shell 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 through this partnership via the airwaves and were viewed at purchase points.

For the second year, the Department teamed with 1470 Radio Disney for a “casting call” at the International Sportsmen’s Expo in Sacramento. Kids 14 and under were invited to read a prepared boating safety message during the Expo. From the group of participants a few were chosen to record real boating safety messages that then were aired through the summer months by Radio Disney stations in California.

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.

California Clean Green Boating Network

The Division of Boating and Waterways, continues to participate in the California Clean Boating Network (CCBN). This network consists of a collaboration of government, environmental, business, boating and academic organizations working to increase and improve clean boating education efforts in California. Through the exchange of information and consideration of new trends in clean boating practices, CCBN members increase their ability to educate the boating public about clean boating practices.

C. Public Information Education through Pamphlets

In 2005, 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 the Abandoned Watercraft Removal Fund Program for the removal of abandoned watercraft and substantial navigational hazards from California’s waterways. These funds are made available to the local public agencies for the removal, storage, and disposal of navigational hazards. For fiscal year 2004/2005, a total of $338,215 was allocated to 4 local agencies, as shown below:

Agency Name
# of Hazards
San Diego Unified Port District
San Mateo County Harbor District
City of Stockton
County of Ventura