‘Buckle up or pay up': Life jackets are the law


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OGDEN -- Hundreds of Utahns are escaping the heat by tubing the state's rivers, but wildlife officials have a warning. They say buckle up or pay up, and they're not talking about seat belts.

It's easy to forget about the near triple-digit temperatures if you're cruising along the Weber River.


About 80 percent of those who die in boating accidents are basically because they did not have a life jacket on.

–Dave Harris, Utah Parks & Rec


"It's relaxing, and you get to enjoy the weather," Matt Northgrave said, following a Tuesday afternoon trip down the river.

But you've got to come prepared with the right tube and a life jacket.

"I flipped today, so it was good help -- helped out with riding," Northgrave said, referring to his life jacket.

David Hintze and friends always wear their life jackets.

"The first time we did it, we weren't prepared and came without life jackets, and we were kind of nervous," Hintze said. "[It's] not a smart idea to not have one."

But not everyone follows Northgrave's and Hintze's examples.

"I liked it more as a butt seat to protect me from the rocks," Michael D'Ambrosio said.

David Hintze and his friends say they always wear their life jackets when they go tubing on the Weber River.
David Hintze and his friends say they always wear their life jackets when they go tubing on the Weber River.

In fact, Dave Harris, boating program manager for Utah Parks and Recreation, estimates only about one-third of people on the water wear life jackets. That's nowhere near enough, he says.

"About 80 percent of those who die in boating accidents are basically because they did not have a life jacket on," Harris said.

Boating officials have been out on the river reminding people that wearing a life jacket is required by law, and citing those who aren't doing it. If the safety issues don't make you buckle up, they're hoping the cost of not doing so will change your mind.

"It could be up to $100," Harris said.

One question people have is why doesn't their tube count as a flotation device? The answer: It doesn't matter if you're riding on a tube, an air mattress, whatever, it counts as a vessel and you have to wear a jacket.

E-mail: sdallof@ksl.com

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