Canoeist and kayakers will be in the spotlight during a statewide safety, education and compliance campaign by Roads and Maritime Services officers starting tomorrow.
Roads and Maritime Acting Director Maritime Michael Wright said the full complement of Roads and Maritime Boating Safety Officers (BSO) would be out on the water randomly stopping people in paddle craft to check compliance with safety equipment, especially lifejackets.
'They will be helped by the new team of Boating Education Officers who will be engaging with paddlers onshore at launching sites and special aquatic events around NSW,' Mr Wright said.
'The opportunity to reach out to paddlers in an operation like this is crucial to ensure they are operating safely. Owners of paddle craft are not required to register their vessel which means the channels of communication are limited and paddlers need to educate themselves about safety requirements.
'Paddle NSW estimates there are 70,000 canoeists and kayakers in NSW and that number is increasing each year.
'During the campaign, paddlers will be educated about the requirement to display lights at night, to keep clear of larger vessels and pass behind them, and to be mindful of vessel wash which could lead to capsize.
'They will also be reminded to keep right in a channel when navigating on the water and to always maintain a proper lookout.
'It is particularly important when paddling solo to wear a life jacket, advise someone of where they are going and when they are due back,' Mr Wright said.
In December last year, a 21 year old man, who was not wearing a lifejacket, drowned after falling from a canoe in the NSW southern tablelands during a fishing expedition. The man was found less than 100 metres from where he fell from the boat after his two friends managed to swim to shore and signal for help.
Mr Wright said the campaign would also focus on improving canoe and kayak compliance with paddle safety and safety equipment, especially lifejackets.
'BSOs will take a zero tolerance approach and issue on the spot fines to people who don’t wear a lifejacket where required by law,' he said.
'All people in a canoe or kayak on open waters, alpine waters or white water must wear a lifejacket at all times.
'In the past decade, nine out of 10 people who drowned while boating in NSW were not wearing a lifejacket.
'We want to see people get into the habit of putting on a lifejacket in the same way they put on sunscreen or their seatbelt it is simple and could save a life.'
More information on paddle safety can be found at www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime
Contact: Roads and Maritime Services Media Unit: 8588 5999