Jordanelle expo focuses on boating safety |

Jordanelle expo focuses on boating safety

Tracie Fails, of the Record staff

Seafaring folk may not have to know safety rules by law before they hit the water, but voluntarily learning the basics could save boaters’ lives and, potentially, a hefty rescue bill. Government safety teams and volunteer organizations alike have begun to push the costs of rescue missions on boaters themselves, making a little education a wise investment for many.

The Jordanelle State Park staff will offer a chance to learn about boating safety and even register for a certification course at its sixth annual On-the-Water Boat Show, which began Friday. The three-day event features eight area dealers and the chance for potential buyers test-drive boats. Participants will also find booths with safety education. Utah State Parks education specialist Richard Droesbeke says the event, held as part of the National Safe Boating Campaign, will also offer opportunities to register for the Utah State Park’s boating course, a certification that can reduce insurance premiums for those who successfully pass it.

"It’s a boat show that focuses on putting safety first," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. "Right before Memorial Day is the perfect time for it, since that’s when the first real crowd of the season tests the water."

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will also offer free safety inspections for people bringing in boats they already own and will waive the admission fee of $9 a day for boats up to their standards.

Eight area dealers and three vendors will display new models and offer potential buyers the chance to test drive them. Droesbeke says operating boats before purchasing can improve safety, since dealers are better able to explain features, but that the opportunity is rare. Only 35 percent of boaters test-drive vehicles before they buy, compared to about 90 percent of car buyers.

"Getting the feel of the boat and knowing how it works it is a big advantage, since people can ask questions on the spot and aren’t trying out as many new things on their own," Droesbeke said.

National watercraft registrations may have climbed 23 percent the past year, but even with more boats on the water, fatalities and related injuries have dropped nonetheless, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Executive Director of the National Safe Boating Campaign Virgil Chambers says awareness and education efforts have played a significant role in reducing that number.

"We created the safety week 25 years ago to get the point across about things as simple as lifejackets," he said in a phone interview last Tuesday. "Lifejackets have been the single biggest factor in saving lives." Chambers also said he hoped the campaign would create awareness among boaters about the dangers of driving boats while intoxicated.

"The consequences aren’t any different than from driving cars," he said. "The rules aren’t as clear on the water, but the damage can be just as bad."

Droesbeke said education also benefits boaters who think waters become too crowded in the summer.

"Lots of people see just chaos, and everyone is going their own way," he said. "If people knew what to do when another boat came toward them head-on or how to approach swimmers and skiers, there would be a lot fewer close calls and more people would have a better experience," he said.

The On-the-Water boat show will continue today, Saturday May 19, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will also run Sunday May 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aside from watercraft dealers, land recreation companies and timeshares will be available as well. For more information about the show, visit the event’s Web site, , where coupons for $4 off the admission price are available.

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