UPDATE: Life jackets are required to be worn while floating on any sort of vessel on moving water in Spokane County, but Spokane does not have the same requirement for waters within the city, officials say. More to come on the differences in the rules.
RIVER RUNNING -- Experienced rafters are grousing over some news reports that "rafters" had to be rescued on Saturday after being swept away by the Spokane River's still-high flows and caught up in trees.
"There's a difference between rafters and tubers," one man said on Facebook, noting that experienced rafters have better craft, don wet or dry suits for cold water immersion and wear life jackets.
The rescue involving about 35 responders was called to help five men who were in the river on inner tubes and beyond their skill level. Worst of all, they wore no life jackets. Clueless, and illegal.
According to the Spokane County ordinance, "All persons regardless of age shall wear a personal flotation device while on moving water."
I read nothing in any news report suggesting that these five young men were issued tickets for violating the county law.
People should be aware that it’s illegal to be on watercraft on the Spokane River -- or any moving water in the county -- without wearing a life jacket. Watercraft means all boats, including canoes, inflatable rafts, inner tubes and kayaks.
The fine for failure to wear a life jacket is $76.
The tickets should be written and publicized to boost awareness of the rule -- especially in a case that triggered 35 responders to the scene.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list failure to wear a life jacket as among the top reasons people drown.
It's time to take life jacket laws seriously. Write the tickets for flagrant violations.
That means enforcing the rule with kids AND adults. Parents are powerful role models -- if they wear life jackets, it’s more likely their children will, too.