TWRA urges boaters to wear life vests after weekend drownings

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – After multiple drownings over the weekend across the state, including a kayaker from Middle Tennessee, TWRA is reminding boaters to wear their flotation devices.

Tennessee law only requires those 12 and under to be wearing a life jacket while on a boat, but the boat must have a life jacket for everyone on board.

TWRA Officer Jeff Roberson says all boaters should wear a life jacket.

“In an emergency, you’re not going to have time to reach into that compartment and get that jacket and put it on,” said Roberson. “You enter the water unexpectedly and the boat or the jacket is going to float away from you unless you’re wearing it.”

According to TWRA in 2016, 15 people drowned in lakes and rivers. Twelve of those weren’t wearing life vests. The two who did weren’t wearing them correctly.

Andy Jones with River Sports Outfitters says his staff take issuing life jackets to renters seriously.

“With every rental, you always get a life jacket and you always get a paddle, too,” said Jones. “We always, always tell people to wear their life jacket. It’s so important.”

He says he thinks most of his customers do wear them.

A lot of them are first time users or beginners a lot of time,” said Jones. “People with experience know to wear their life vests. I think it’s just a big thing for us to hand people their life jacket and say, ‘Hey, wear it.’”

The design of life jackets has improved over the years. Jones says there is no reason to boat without one.

“They’re so light weight, they’re so slim, they’re so adjustable now, you don’t even know you them on.”

Officer Roberson and Jones both say the most important safety measure boaters can take is to always wear a life vest.

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