Martine Rolls: Fools take to the water without lifejackets

By Martine Rolls


Every time I read a story about accidents on the water, especially the ones that have a tragic ending, I can't help wondering why there are still people out there who just don't bother wearing a lifejackets when heading out to sea.

A story we published on Monday, written by Bay of Plenty Times reporter Kiri Gillespie, explained the results of a Bay of Plenty Regional Council survey of 259 vessels and occupants at boat ramps across the region from December 26 last year to February 6.

Of the 638 adults and 124 children surveyed, 66 adults and 13 children were not wearing lifejackets.

When asked why, eight people said they did not think there was a risk, five said lifejackets were too expensive and three said they were uncomfortable.

Others said lifejackets were "uncool"or they had confidence in the skipper's abilities.

Even worse, the survey also showed that 11 of the vessels checked did not have any form of communication on board, and 16 boaties reported that they had not checked the marine forecast before heading out.

Wearing lifejackets should be second nature for people, especially on smaller boats. It's a no-brainer, really.

I love going out fishing, or just cruising around on my friend's little boat, but you will never catch me without a lifejacket. He is an experienced boatie and a strong ocean swimmer. I trust him completely when handling the boat, but I do not trust the sea.

I had a look at Water Safety New Zealand's website The organisation can be found on Facebook, too.

On the homepage it says that an average of 105 New Zealanders a year have drowned over the past five years.

New Zealand's annual drowning toll is one of the worst in the developed world.

On our website and on Facebook we asked the question: Do you think lifejackets should be compulsory for everyone heading out on the water?

Zuleika Marsh said on Facebook: "I stupidly thought they were already. Of course they should be. Will be hard to police but it should definitely be compulsory."

Marty Stewart said: "Recreational boaties should always be wearing a lifejacket.

"They should come with the damn boat.

"And yes, it should be law, if it's not cool to make sure you are alive then we can certainly change that and if idiots think there skipper is too good then you are wrong again.

"It's just stupid foolishness to not wear one."

Big Angry Fish, a TV show about teaching people the knowledge and techniques to head out and catch trophy fish in shallow water, commented as well:

"Yes, in more than 60 per cent of accidents involving recreational boaties, failing to wear a lifejacket is the leading cause of death.

"That's the reason why we have decided to wear a lifejacket always and will be seen doing this from our coming Season 2 of our TV fishing show. Our focus is shallow-water fishing, and even there accidents can happen."

I particularly liked Carla Bennett Nathan's comment: "Being dead is too expensive, uncool and uncomfortable. It's not a fashion accessory; its purpose is to save your life. Hence the name lifejacket."

Doc Hilliard, from the United States, left an interesting comment on our website: "Vessels for hire and all other class of commercial vessels ought to have on board sufficient flotation devices for each person aboard plus rafts, and lifeboats sufficient to avoid a "Titanic shortage".

As for actually wearing such devices that must rest with the individual's decision, not some bloated bureaucrat landlubber.

"It's no more the business of government to demand wearing such devices any more than it is demanding that cyclists don some helmet which will kill the user in any crash happening over 40 km/h, or any more than, say, government blowhards demanding you eat carrots but not chops, lettuce but not bread, eat sugar cookies but not smoke, etc.

"Government's main job is to stay out of the way of the citizens whose taxes support their lavish lifestyle."

I agree with him in a way. Not only will it be hard to police if lifejackets are made mandatory, I'm also sure that there will be people out there who just won't bother with them.

A law change won't help all that much.

What really needs to change is those people's attitude.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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