The following press release and information was provided by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Environmental Police Officers from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are teaming up with boating safety advocates across the United States and Canada to promote safe and responsible boating and consistent life jacket wearing duringNational Safe Boating Week. It runs from Saturday, May 18, to Friday, May 24. Throughout the week, DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement will increase water patrols, conduct boating safety inspections, and provide information on boating safety in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

DEM Environmental Police are joining the RI State Fire Marshal’s Bomb Squad, Narragansett Police, and West Marine to host three safety flare collection events this year. Boaters may bring their expired flares to West Marine for proper disposal; new flares may be purchased at a 20 percent discount, courtesy of West Marine.

The first collection event is on Sunday, May 19, from 9 AM to 5 PM at West Marine, 91 Point Judith Road, Narragansett. Additional collection events will take place at West Marine locations in Middletown prior to July 4th and in Warwick before Labor Day.

National Safe Boating Week also is the official launch of the 2019 North American safe boating campaign. This year-long effort promotes safe and responsible boating and the value of voluntary life jacket wear by recreational boaters through the national theme, Wear It! The campaign reminds boaters of the importance of boating safely, boating sober, knowing navigational rules, and having a proper lookout.

“The key to safe boating is the life jacket,” said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, boating safety program manager for DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement. “A person who suffers swimming failure or loss of consciousness will stay afloat wearing a life jacket but will drown without one. There is no time to put a life jacket on before a boating accident – it’s no different than attempting to buckle your seat belt before a car crash.”

According to the U.S Coast Guard, drowning was the reported cause of death in 76% of all fatal boating accidents, and 85% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. Eight out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length. In accidents where the level of operator education was known, 81% of boating deaths occurred on vessels where the boat operator never received boating education instruction. Alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. There are nearly 40,000 registered boats in Rhode Island. DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement responded to 38 boating accidents in 2018; these incidents resulted in 1 fatality and 13 serious injuries.

Important Reminders

  • Children under 13 years old must wear an approved life jacket on recreational craft unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
  • Make sure life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
  • Double-check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Today, life jackets are stylish, versatile, comfortable, and lightweight. New technology allows many to inflate automatically when immersed in water.
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can be hazardous.
  • Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

Today’s Life Jackets Offer Style, Variety, and Comfort

Most boaters know they’re required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on board for every passenger on their boat. All operators of paddle craft including paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks also are required to have a life jacket readily available; boating safety advocates recommend all boaters including boaters using paddle craft and passengers “Wear It” at all times while on the water. Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. 

The good news is that today’s life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight, and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. Life jackets that use inflatable technologies are cool and comfortable. They may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack. Many inflate automatically when immersed in water. A variety of life jacket styles are available for almost any boating activity, including:

Practically all styles of life jackets are available and sized especially for children – some with cartoon characters, straps for pulling children from the water, and high-visibility schemes.  And, life jackets are even available for pets. It’s helpful to purchase one with a handle on top to easily pull your pet out of the water, if needed. No matter what the activity or style chosen, the most important thing is this: Remember to grab a life jacket and ‘Wear It!’ 

The US and Canada have recently adopted a new labeling system for lifejackets that features use-specific numeric codes and universal pictures and symbols. When purchasing a new lifejacket, boaters should pay attention to the label to be sure that the lifejacket is appropriate for its intended activity. 

Wear It! unites the efforts of a wide variety of boating safety advocates, including the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and Canadian Safe Boating Council with the National Safe Boating Council. It is produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

For more information on Rhode Island boating laws and regulations including the mandatory boating safety education requirement and certification process, please visit or contact the Division of Law Enforcement at 401-222-2284. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at for timely updates.