WVDNR Police enforces sober boating and life jacket use as part of National Safe Boating Week

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — To help promote National Safe Boating Week and encourage safe boating practices during the Memorial Day weekend, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Section is increasing the number of water patrols and reminding boaters about the state’s boating laws and regulations.

“I want to thank our DNR Police for all of the hard work they do year in and year out to encourage and educate folks how to safely and responsibly enjoy our state’s natural resources,” said WVDNR Director Brett McMillion. “Their dedication to upholding our hunting, fishing and boating laws and regulations makes our woods and waters safe so all can enjoy outdoor adventures in West Virginia.”

One of the most common issues WVDNR Police encounter during the boating season is compliance with the state’s life jacket laws. West Virginia law requires each person while the boat is underway to have a life jacket of appropriate size for the intended use, is in good and serviceable condition, is readily accessible and is U.S. Coast Guard approved. Children under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while the boat is underway, unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

“There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about life jackets, so we want to make sure that people know that safe boating isn’t just a recommendation in West Virginia — it’s the law,” said WVDNR Police Captain Warren Goodson. “Using a proper life jacket is vital to safeguarding your well-being on the water.” 

Recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning is the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities and that 75 percent of those who drown are not wearing life jackets. 

“Wearing your life jacket isn’t a sign of weakness but a precautionary measure that can save your life,” said Goodson.

In addition to enforcing the state’s life jacket laws, Goodson said the WVDNR Law Enforcement section increases the number of water patrols during the Memorial Day weekend and other summer holidays to crack down on boaters boating under the influence.

Anyone born on or after December 31, 1986, must successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved Boater Education Course before they can legally operate a motorboat on West Virginia’s waters. To learn more about boating rules and laws, safe boating practices and the WVDNR’s boater education program, visit WVdnr.gov/boating.