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Keep water safety top of mind this boating season
Safe Kids Kansas, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks provide tips for families during National Safe Boating Week
One of many kayakers glide through the water on a sunny day at Tibble Fork Reservoir on Thursday, June 15, 2017. - photo by Jennifer Graham

TOPEKA – With almost 100 different kinds of boats – from kayaks to canoes to motorboats – many Kansans will be having a great time on the water this year. Governor Laura Kelly has declared May 18-24 Safe Boating Week in Kansas, and Safe Kids Kansas, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks want to remind families to take extra steps to keep kids safe out on the water.

Safe Boating Week is an annual educational campaign, coordinated by the National Safe Boating Council ( that runs the week prior to Memorial Day.

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among Kansas children. Wearing a life jacket improves your odds of surviving a boating accident by 80 percent. In 2022, 75 percent of all fatal boating accident victims in the U.S. drowned, and of those who drowned, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. During National Safe Boating Week, we want to remind all parents of a few simple things they can do to keep their kids safe on a boat and that starts with wearing life jackets.

“Drowning can happen quickly and silently,” said Cherie Sage, State Coordinator for Safe Kids Kansas. “It’s important for children to wear life jackets when they are in or around open water and for adults to actively supervise children, giving them your full attention.”

Follow these safety tips to keep your family safe while boating:

1. Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and on-water experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters. Visit

2. Always wear a life jacket. Adults and children should always wear a properly fitted life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats or around open bodies of water. Children ages 12 and under are required by law to wear a life jacket at all times on any watercraft, including paddleboats and kayaks. Older children and adults should set a good safety example for everyone and wear their life jackets, too.

3. Supervise kids in and around water. When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use a Water Watcher card to designate an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision. 

4. Educate your children about swimming. Every child is different, so enroll children in swimming lessons when you feel they are ready. Teach children skills such as how to tread water and float. Kids should only swim in areas designated for swimming. Teach children that swimming in open bodies of water is different than a swimming pool. They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, undertow and changing weather.

5. Learn Water Rescue Skills. We know you have a million things to do but learning CPR should be at the top of the list. Knowing CPR and other water rescue skills will give you tremendous peace of mind. Contact the Red Cross or your local hospital for information about classes.

6. Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before heading out on the water. Know that weather can change quickly, so have a weather radio or weather app that you can check. If the weather starts to change, head to shore immediately.

To learn more, visit, and Boating | Safe Kids Worldwide.