Stricter lifejacket laws for boat users designed to save lives

BUCKLE UP: Warren Brook, of Sea Rescue, with Memphis, Bayden, Zach, Declan and Cambria embracing the new lifejacket laws.
BUCKLE UP: Warren Brook, of Sea Rescue, with Memphis, Bayden, Zach, Declan and Cambria embracing the new lifejacket laws.

Boat users will face stricter regulations on lifejackets as the state government cracks down on the increasing number of drownings across the state.

Of the 168 drownings in South Australia in the past 10 years, a fifth involved boats or other water craft.

As of December 5, anyone aboard a motorised vessel of less than 4.8 metres in length is now required to wear a life jacket at all times, whether moving or stopped.

Children aged 12 or younger must wear a life jacket while in an "open area" of a boat 4.8 to 12 metres long.

Anyone else aboard such a boat must do the same if operating alone, between sunset and sunrise, anytime the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a storm warning, when visibility is poor or if the boat has broken down.

Squadron leader Warren Brook of Sea Rescue, which covers the stretch from Kangaroo Island to Cape Jervis and all the way down to the Coorong and Lower Lakes, said it was about time the laws were tightened.

“It’s been proven time and time again that those wearing lifejackets have a far greater chance of survival,” he said. “I’ve been in the squadron for 17 years and I’ve seen many incidents of people not wearing lifejackets coming out of a situation quite badly – usually resulting in death.”

Mr Brook said one of the biggest killers in our waters was cold water shock – a human response to sudden and unexpected immersion in water at 15 degrees or lower.

“It occurs in the first fifteen seconds or so and pretty well renders you powerless to save yourself quickly,” he said. “It takes you about one minute to get your breathing under control when experiencing cold water shock, which is often the danger period for drownings.”

After about ten minutes, Mr Brook said the cold sucks the vitality out of people and causes them to lose control of their limbs.

Last summer, he said there were three drownings in Petrel Cove alone and all three were not wearing lifejackets.

“Don’t be an idiot: wear a lifejacket… I don’t care how good of a swimmer you think are,” he said.

The laws were approved by the Boating Industry Association.