The lifejacket message must be heard loud and clear

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  18 Sep 2012

The lifejacket message must be heard loud and clear

In this case, ‘some' was less than 1%, with a 99.05% compliance rate being found when 3667 vessels were checked recently. I'd call that a pass.

RMS then tag-teamed with the Boating Industry Association to caution owners about neglecting their boats and pushing a 50-Point Safety Check.

Make sure your flares are in date! Don't drive too close to whales! Boat owner fined...

The messages are being lost, or diluted, in the endless translation. But if there's one that should be heard loud and clear above all others, it's the lifejacket message. Because when all else fails, a lifejacket is your last line of defence against drowning.

On a windswept Lake Macquarie in June last year, 14-year-old Courtney Simon set off with two friends in a four-metre tinnie. The boat soon became swamped and capsized. Unworn lifejackets floated away and Courtney disappeared – her body was eventually found 10 days later.

The NSW Coroner reviewed the case a few weeks ago and declined to refer it to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Nor did he recommend that laws governing lifejackets be changed.

Courtney's family had hoped that prosecutors would consider a charge of manslaughter by criminal negligence against the teenaged skipper. They had also begun campaigning for ‘Courtney's Rule', seeking to tighten regulations surrounding lifejackets.

Over this last weekend in NSW there were five more drowning with non life jacket wearing boaters.

The mood and momentum is definitely building. At the Sydney International Boat Show, NSW Minister for Ports Duncan Gay took the first steps in an initiative to supply and promote lifejackets.

He wants the industry to partner with government to deliver a radical lifejacket supply and promotion solution.

Stakeholders have already suggested some ideas such as a ‘swap and go' system for replacing inflatable lifejackets, based on the way people can swap BBQ gas bottles.

With recent advances in the design and technology of inflatable jackets, I can see the day where all boaties are wearing them all the time. I'd be one of them.

Inflatable lifejackets like the aptly named Crewsaver are becoming more compact and comfortable  Connexion PR

Once that's done, maybe the authorities can turn their attention to rock fishing.

On a tiny stretch of coast not far from where Courtney was lost there have been six fishing deaths in two years... but the authorities remain oddly silent there....

Mark Rothfield

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