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As summer approaches, park rangers remind Utahns that life jackets save lives

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Posted at 6:29 PM, May 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-27 20:42:46-04

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah - Campsites are booked for Memorial Day weekend at Jordanelle State Park, but before boaters head out on the water, park rangers say they should make sure they have the proper safety gear.

May 21-27 is National Safe Boating Week, and the main message from the National Boating Safety Council this year is wearing life jackets.

“One of the things we want people to remember is life jackets save lives,” said Jordanelle State Park ranger Jason Whittaker. “Last year, we had five fatalities that could’ve been avoided just by wearing a life jacket.”

Whittaker said life jacket use is just one thing they’ll be on the lookout for as the summer season kicks off. Under Utah law, kids 12 and under must wear their life jackets at all times, and all others must have a properly fitting life jacket somewhere on board.

Whittaker says wearing a life jacket buys boaters time in an emergency, especially in Utah’s colder waters.

“We’re at 55 degrees in the water right now,” Whittaker said. “They will buy you enough time to A) Swim to safety, B) Get your breathing under control… and C) allow help to get to you.”

Whittaker said in addition to life jackets, boaters should make sure they’re not drinking while driving. DUI laws apply to vehicles on the water as well. There should also be proper equipment, and drivers should be aware of no wake zones.

The state park service has additional boater safety information on their website.