6. Conducted study in three areas:
Vicksburg District (2009-2011) Policy Is Still In Place
– Arkabutla, Enid, Grenada, and Sardis Lakes in Mississippi
Sacramento District (Apr – Oct 2011) Very short preparation
period, District discontinued policy after study
– Pine Flat Lake in California
Pittsburgh District – Policy established 1990
All small watercraft 16 feet and under, canoes, and non-swimmers
Three-year study ended on 31 October 2011
Policies enforced under 36 CFR 327.12(a) – Restrictions
Life Jacket Policy Study
8. First identified the scope of policy
Policy based on statistical trends
• Greatest risk groups
– Boaters in small watercraft
– Boaters underway
– Swimmers outside of designated swim beaches
Prepared region for policy: Notifications began in
2008 to Congressional offices, state and local
law enforcement agencies, Federal Magistrates,
local media, and public. The one-year
communication process was vital to success.
Not An Overnight Process
9. State officers did not enforce, but cooperated
through education contacts
Enforcement began 22 May 2009
Study ended 31 October 2011
Vicksburg District decided to continue policy
and it is still in effect today
Clear and calm mindset, park
ranger’s attitudes determined
visitor’s actions/reactions, full
understanding of the policy
necessary for uniform
enforcement between lakes
10. A life jacket must be worn…
At all times on powered vessels less than 16 feet in
length and on all non-powered vessels, regardless
On vessels 16 to 26 feet in length whenever under
power by the main propulsion engine
When being pulled by a vessel,
regardless of vessel length
When swimming outside a designated
USACE Mississippi Lakes Policy
15. USACE Mississippi Lakes
Number of Boating Related Fatalities
USACE Vicksburg District Public Water-related Fatalities
FY2014: No fatalities
FY2015: One fatality (Sardis Lake)
FY2016: Four fatalities (Arkansas Lakes)
FY2017: No fatalities
16. Mandatory wear regulations are making a difference when it comes
to saving lives.
Wear rates remain very high.
Wear rate for adult males in 2017 (64.3%) compared to 2011 (67.6%).
Wear rate for adult females in 2017 (57.9%) compared to 2011
(67.7%). The decrease in wear rate for women is concerning and
something we need to keep an eye on.
Boaters using skiffs wear rate in 2017, 78.7% compared to 73.4% in
2011. Speedboats/Runabouts showed some of the lowest wear rates,
in 2017 were 48.8%, 66.3% in 2011. The decrease in wear rate for
speedboats/runabouts is a concerning and another thing that we
need to keep an eye on.
Summary of Mississippi Findings
17. Boats that don't fall under the policy, which include boats 16-26 feet
in length that are anchored or drifting and boats 26+ feet in length
regardless if underway or not, showed an increase in life jacket wear.
Influencers such as kids play a role. Adults boating with children
exhibited higher wear rates than boats that had only adults and teens
The wear rate for boaters that were fishing or had the intent to fish in
2017 was 73.2% and 72% in 2011.
Use of inflatable life jackets among those wearing life jackets did
increase, the increase was substantially lower than one might
Summary of Mississippi Findings
18. Life Jacket Mandatory Wear
Life Jacket Mandatory-Wear Policy Selective Expansion
signed 2 May 2012 by MG Michael J. Walsh
19. New Orleans District - Bonnet Carre Spillway and Port Allen Lock.
All operators of vessels less than 18' must wear a life jacket when
operating the vessel alone.
St. Louis District - Carlyle Lake. All single occupants in vessels less
than 21’ while under main propulsion.
St. Louis District – Lake Shelbyville. Life jacket wear and possession
is included in Boat Rafting Policy.
Albuquerque District – Cochiti Lake. Anyone using an inflatable (raft,
inner tube, rubber boat, other floating objects, etc) on the lake must
wear a life jacket, even in the swim area.
More USACE locations would likely develop policies if states
were willing to support policy if put in place.
Life Jacket Mandatory Wear
20. High levels of compliance may be leading to
developing a norm of wearing life jackets.
Levels of enforcement is working.
Advance coordination and continued
communication is critical.
What We Have Learned…
21. Education still plays a role.
Boaters will comply when faced with a
regulation; swimmers outside designated
areas are tough to regulate.
Lives have been saved.
What We Have Learned…
23. More videos and resources
available at PleaseWearIt.com
Please Wear It
Show “Man Overboard PSA” located at
24. Arkabutla Lake: Summer of 2009
Two fisherman were thrown into the water when their boat
overturned. This was the first time they wore their life jackets
while boating because they knew of the life jacket policy.
They stated they were glad that they did have them on
because, if not, they would not be alive.
Sardis Lake: Summer of 2009
Two fisherman fell overboard when their boat was swamped
by a large wave. They were wearing their life jackets and
were found nine hours later clinging to overhanging limbs.
Lives Have Been Saved
25. Sardis Lake: Labor Day Weekend 2013
Four people were in small aluminum boat. The lake was
choppy and the waves overtook the boat and caused it to
capsize. All four people had life jackets on and all survived.
Five people in a ski boat were thrown from the boat after it
hit some rocks in shallow water. There were some injuries
but no fatalities. The driver of the boat said that if it were
not for the life jacket mandate they likely would not have
been wearing their life jackets.
Lives Have Been Saved
26. I’m going to leave you with this.
The question that MG Donald T. Riley asked the
USACE Team before USACE Life Jacket
Mandatory Wear Policies were put in place.
“Will it save at least one life?”
“Then Do It!”
Other under Boating includes Control/Speed, Electrical, Carbon Monoxide, Skiing/Towing
In 2007, after briefing our Civil Works Commanding General with this information, he made a bold direction to our National Operations Center for Water Safety in asking for consideration of a life jacket policy on all Corps waters.
Mandate Background: Spring 2008 USACE Product Delivery Team recommended Corps Rules and Regulations (Title 36 CFR) not be changed as a national policy revision; however, they did recommend continued support of US Coast Guard life jacket initiatives promoting increased voluntary life jacket wear, aggressive public education campaigns, life jacket loaner programs, and increased partnerships with recreational user groups
The Headquarters USACE decision to implement mandatory life jacket wear requirements at Corps projects nationwide was deferred until additional information and statistics have been collected and analyzed
Districts were requested by Headquarters USACE to participate in a 3-5 year test study of mandatory life jacket wear requirements at Corps projects
Following study of National, District, and project-level statistics and discussions with Corps water safety experts, the Vicksburg District, North MS lakes (Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid and Grenada lakes) were selected for a 3-year test program.
Development Parameters: By 2008 the four Mississippi lakes had 408 fatalities since impoundment (Sardis-1940, Arkabutla-1943, Enid-1952, Grenada-1954)
408 Fatalities, 326 Water-related Fatalities, 156 Boating (48%), 16 Fishing (5%), 154 Swimming (47%), 92% of all water-related fatalities were not wearing a life jacket
Water safety initiatives reduced annual fatalities by 50%
Observations indicated life jacket wear rate at the MS lakes was approximately 22%. When the wear rate of those currently under mandatory life jacket wear requirements (children under 13, skiers, personal watercraft users) was not included, only 6-8% of boaters voluntarily wore their life jackets.
Pine Flat Lake in California Policy:
1. Everyone swimming more than 100 feet away from the shoreline.
2. Everyone aboard all non-motorized vessels, regardless of length, at all times.
3. Everyone aboard motorized vessels up to 16-feet in length, at all times.
4. Everyone aboard motorized vessels 16-feet in length or larger when the vessel is underway (under main propulsion). Passengers in fully-enclosed cabins (in houseboats, for example), are not required to wear a life jacket. Life jackets are required for pilots and passengers in any exposed area of the vessel when the vessel is underway (under main propulsion). Life jackets are not required when the vessel is stationary, or powered by an electric trolling motor.
Pittsburgh District’s participation was more to establish record of effect. The policy was first adopted in 1990, but because of staff and budget reductions, little had been done to measure the effect of implementing a policy. With new focus and wear rate measurements, Pittsburgh’s participation allows the Corps to study use patterns and life jacket use on established regulated areas. State law enforcement adopted this policy as their own regulation applicable to Corps waters only and assists with enforcement on most Corps lakes. Policy: All small watercraft 16 feet and under, canoes and non-swimmers
Boat Patrol Hours were not increased due to implementing the policy.
Visitors started noticing when patrols were on the water and watched for them, so the lakes changed up their boat patrol schedules.
Educated the first year (2009) that the policy was implement and did not issue any citations. The second year (2010) start issuing more warnings. Visitors started getting the impression that no citations were going to be written, so fewer warnings and more citations were issued the third year (2011).
There was a 11.4% decrease in visitation from 2008 to 2011. Decrease occurred at Arkabutla and Sardis Lakes. Increase occurred at Enid and Grenada Lakes.
During that same time period visitation USACE-wide decreased 4.8% and increased 1.4% at the Arkansas Lakes combined (DeGray, Greeson, and Ouachita Lakes) within the Vicksburg District.
The Mississippi lakes went from 12 boating related drownings to 4 drownings for a 66.67% decline. Interestingly the drowning rates at the other lakes in the Vicksburg District also went down by 45% (from 11 to 6 boating related drownings). What is also interesting is the swimming related drownings. The 4 MS lakes had a 55% decline in swimming fatalities (11 to 5) but the other Vicksburg District lakes basically stayed the same (12--> 11).
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 there were no public recreation fatalities in Vicksburg District. That was the first year that has ever happened. In FY2015, there was one fatality within Vicksburg District at Sardis Lake. In FY2016, there were four fatalities in Vicksburg District (3 at Lake Ouachita and 1 at DeGray Lake, which are lakes in Arkansas). In FY2017, once again there were no fatalities in Vicksburg District and for Mississippi Valley Division there were only three fatalities.
Lake Shelbyville life jacket portion of boat rafting policy: USCG approved life jackets are to be worn at all times on rafts greater than five boats unless person is below deck or in an enclosed cabin. Everyone in the water associated with a raft greater than five boats must have a USCG approved properly fitted life jacket or Type IV throwable device in their personal possession at all times.