Children riding in boats on Wisconsin waterways may soon be required to wear a life jacket. Over the past decade, nine children have drowned in Wisconsin in boating-related accidents. DNR officials say many of those could have been prevented if a child had been wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD).
Bill Engfer is the DNR's director of Recreation Enforcement and Education. He's supporting a bill that would require life jackets for kids up to the age of 12, while on a boat that's less than 26 feet in length. Engfer says children should be required to wear PFDs starting at a young age because it creates a habit for them that can last later in life.
Federal law already requires children to wear life jackets while on boats. Engfer says that can create confusion when state officials stop boaters on federally patrolled waters. He says there have been several cases where the state can't cite them, but minutes later the Coast Guard does. Wisconsin is one of only four states not to have the requirement in place.
Under the bill, first time offenders would face up to a $25 fine, with that increasing to $100 on the second offense. The federal law allows for fines up to $1,000.