2006 California Boating Safety Report
California Division of Boating and Waterways

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:

  • 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 through California schools.

DBW 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. DBW provides educational institutions with free course materials on boating and aquatic safety. 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


DBW developed the AquaSMART curriculum to educate school-age children about aquatic and boating safety. The elementary school program has a three-part series for K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 grades. Course materials cover ten basic boating and aquatic safety lessons. Nearly 260,000 elementary school students benefitted from the AquaSMART education programs in 2006.

DBW 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 which served about 15,000 youths in 2006.

AquaSMART Curriculum Revision

DBW continues its revision of the AquaSMART curriculum series. The curriculum for 6th to 8th grades (The Challenge) is in production. The new program takes the format of an adventure game with three teams facing off in a series of physical and mental challenges. This edition is due to be released in spring 2007.

Each curriculum package guides students through the ten AquaSMART lessons. The program series consists of a video/DVD and teacher’s guide with reproducible student worksheets for each level. For grades K-2 and 3-5, the video/DVD is also available in Spanish along with a set of reproducible Spanish student worksheets. The teacher’s guides also contain charts indicating how the lessons fit into the California State Curriculum Standards, recommended reading lists, and lists of additional media resources.

Curriculum materials are made available to schools, youth groups, aquatic centers, and other educators at no cost.

AquaSMART Live!

AquaSMART Live!, DBW’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. This show appears at schools as general assemblies or as a reward for a school winning our annual poster contest. Besides congratulating the winner and the school, Splasher shows students what can happen if we fail to practice safety in and around the water by using the AquaSMART Stunt Dummies. In 2006, the program served nearly 80 schools statewide and reached approximately 48,000 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 DBW’s Safe & Wise Water Ways poster calendar contest. It is DBW’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, 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 DBW.

Corporate sponsors contribute to the success of this program by providing awards for the winners. In 2006, sponsors included BoaterExam.com, Kawasaki, Northern California Marine Association, Radio Disney, Greater Sacramento Safe Kids, Southern California Marine Association, UC Davis Partners in Prevention, 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 numerous 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 14th year.

Interactive Tools

DBW 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

DBW 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 DBW 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 2005/06 fiscal year, DBW allocated $840,000 in grants to 37 aquatic centers, which then provided approximately 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 DBW 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 2006, about 35,000 copies of California Boating were distributed to the general public. There were 2,100 exams completed and mailed to DBW, 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. DBW 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 for youth
  • Community service programs on 10 radio stations in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego running either a half hour or full hour program dedicated to speaking about accident statistics, boating and alcohol, and carbon monoxide poisoning prevention.
  • DBW partnering 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 3rd annual Tri-State Boating Safety Fair on May 6, 2006. The mission of the safety fair is 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 of 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.

The following also took place in conjunction with the 2006 Tri-State Boating Safety Fair:

  • Tri-State logo and website (www.BoatColoradoRiver.com) were developed
  • Beverage holders and sunglasses clip holders were distributed with the new website imprinted on them
  • Over 100 life jackets were available for life jacket trade-in (thanks to our corporate sponsors: Kawasaki, Brunswick and Boat Ed)
  • Boating safety bags were distributed at 27 different launch ramps along the Colorado River
  • Promotion of the safety fair and boating safety messages were transmitted by various media outlets: radio (promotional placements and on-site live feeds), television, print media, internet (website buttons directing web users to the Tri-State boating safety site were placed on a myriad of agencies’ websites), 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 DBW and law enforcement officials can reduce accident and fatality numbers by educating the public on boating and water safety.

In 2006, DBW 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, DBW 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 DBW’s 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, DBW also has free Spanish-language curriculum materials which meet 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 or DVD.

The Sacramento Univision television station gave DBW the opportunity to relay boating safety information to the Spanish-speaking community. Live feed interviews took place during the summer months.

Safety Media Campaign to Boaters

New Campaign for 2006 – If it’s your boat, it’s YOUR responsibility

DBW launched a new “Responsibility” campaign, its message: “If it’s your boat, it’s YOUR responsibility.” New billboards, posters and radio ads were created addressing boater responsibility and special proactive messages emphasizing BUI arrests aired prior to popular 3-day holiday weekends (i.e., Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day).

Victim testimonials were recorded for the new radio campaign and aired on radio stations statewide. The campaign also continued promoting the BoatSmarter.com website and encouraged all boaters to share their stories at the site.

The program dispatched mobile billboards at popular launching ramps and marinas reminding boaters to be responsible on the water and continued to place wall graphics statewide at launching ramps, park entrances, and fuel docks.

Television Boating Safety Promotion for Popular Holiday Weekends

DBW partnered with the San Diego area XETV to heighten awareness of boating and water safety in the San Diego area prior to the Memorial Day weekend in 2006. The promotion was done through television exposure and the distribution of DBW “Safety Totes” along with a “live” life jacket exchange at a popular area aquatic center. Safety announcements ran during the morning newscast throughout the week leading up to Memorial Day Weekend and focused on the importance of wearing your life jacket, taking a boating safety course, and sober boating. On the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, the station’s morning show reporter conducted “live” interviews on-location with local marine patrol officers and the aquatic center director on the importance of wearing a life jacket and taking a boating safety course. A life jacket trade-in followed on-site with “Safety Tote” giveaways to loyal viewers via an online contest at the station’s website.

Additional successful television “Safety Promotion” partnerships included recorded PSAs with television news anchor personalities from Redding TV station KRCR for Independence Day weekend and with Sacramento TV station KMAX for Labor Day weekend.

DBW’s Safety Team

Media Campaign Outreach Events/and Safety Team

DBW’s Safety Team appeared at over 40 water and recreational boating events statewide. The Safety Team showcased DBW’s Responsibility campaign by partnering with radio stations throughout California. Graphics on the Safety Team’s vehicle increased awareness of the campaign while generating excitement at the events. At each event, boaters registered to win by answering boating safety questions. Nearly 2,000 California boaters participated in the safety quiz to win. The prize this year, donated by Forever Resorts, was a week-long getaway on a houseboat. By registering, boaters also received prizes such as life jackets, sunscreen, visors, and goodie bags.

Through this outreach program, DBW garnered nearly 58,000 impressions (the number of times our safety messages were seen by the public). Due to the more intimate nature of some of these events, however, approximately 10% of these impressions can be classified as contacts – points of interaction between our safety message and the public (safety quiz contests, informational brochures, and collateral pick-up).

Life Jacket Use

Life Jacket Loan Program

DBW 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. DBW 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 www.dbw.ca.gov/BoaterInfo/LifeJacket.aspx.

DBW 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 2006. DBW partnered with Radio Disney, CBS Radio, and 13 Sam’s Club stores statewide to host consecutive trade-ins. Life jackets were offered free to the first 50 persons at each store who brought in children’s life jackets that were outgrown or were deteriorated and unusable. Radio Disney and CBS Radio aired promotion for the events on their families 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 children’s outgrown or 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. Greater Sacramento Safe Kids 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 DBW, law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard 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.

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-usable life jackets were used to supplement the stock at life jacket loan stations. The life jackets remaining at each location after the event were channeled into local life jacket programs for loan or trade. Altogether, 650 life jackets were distributed to the benefit of children statewide.

Get Hooked on H2O

DBW continued its campaign promoting water as the boater’s choice of beverage by partnering with AM 1470 Radio Disney, CBS Radio, and Togo’s. The campaign reminds collective clients/audiences in Northern California to drink water, not alcohol, while boating and wearing a life jacket. During the months of May through September, radio stations KNCI and AM 1470 Radio Disney 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 Togo’s restaurants to obtain safety literature and avoid alcohol while boating. Fifty locations in the Greater Sacramento area offered the pamphlet, ABC’s of California Boating Law, to their customers and a Street Posse promoted safe boating at several public locations.

In 2006, DBW partnered with AM 1470 Radio Disney, CBS Radio and Togo’s restaurants 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.

For the fourth year, DBW teamed with Radio Disney to sponsor “Kid Casters,” a casting call at the International Sportsmen’s Expo in Sacramento for children 14 and under to audition to produce boating safety messages for the airwaves. 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 were then aired through the summer months by Radio Disney stations in California.

Safe Kids Coalition

DBW participates on the Greater Sacramento Safe Kids Coalition under the Drowning Prevention subcommittee. As a river city with 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. DBW provides educational materials for outreach to the community and expertise on open water activities and incidents.

California Clean Green Boating Network

DBW 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, DBW distributed 1.2 million copies of boating safety literature to the public. DBW’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 DBW’s websites, www.dbw.ca.gov or 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. DBW representatives also attend numerous safety fairs and boat shows, distributing literature and answering questions. Currently, the Department of Motor Vehicles mails DBW safety brochures with each new vessel registration and each renewal.

D. Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Program

DBW administers the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement 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 2005/06, a total of $338,215 was allocated to four local agencies. Exhibit IV-1 shows the funds granted to local public agencies for fiscal year 2005/06.