Are you freaking kidding me?
Talk about being over run by pussies and nanny staters!
King Co. requires life vests for swimmers, floaters
By CHRIS GRYGIEL, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
People who hope to beat the summer heat by swimming, floating or boating on rivers in King County must wear a life vest or face an $86 fine.
A divided County Council on Monday passed a personal flotation device ordinance by a five to four vote. Opponents said it was an intrusive move by "big government."
"This Council sometimes thinks it's everybody's mom," said Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, who voted "no."
Supporters said the new rule will save lives.
The law appears to be the first of its kind in the state. Staff with the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington said Kitsap and Clark counties had rules about people wearing life vests while on sail boards, water scooters and other water craft, but it didn't appear any other county required swimmers to wear the devices.
Voting "yes" were Councilmembers Larry Phillips, Joe McDermott, Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson and Larry Gossett. Voting "no" were Lambert, Reagan Dunn, Pete von Reichbauer and Jane Hague.
County Executive Dow Constantine and Sheriff Sue Rahr supported the measure put forward by Councilmembers Phillips and McDermott. The new rule will be in effect until Oct. 1. Violators would first get a warning.
The new rule was prompted by safety concerns because excessive mountain snowpack could make area waterways particularly dangerous this summer.
"We are looking at a potentially deadly situation," Phillips said.
Authorities say there were 17 drowning deaths on major county rivers between 2005 and 2009.
Opponents who spoke before the Council said sheriff's deputies had better things to do than to write tickets for people on waterways and would be better off focusing on people engaging in dangerous behavior.
Thomas O'Keefe of the advocacy group American Whitewater testified in favor of the ordinance, but did have some concerns. He said other jurisdictions have focused on education rather than enforcement. He said the rule's impact should be studied and not automatically renewed in 2012.
"There are other approaches," he said. "Let's look at all the options."
Von Reichbauer worried that the ordinance was the wrong approach and would require too much of water safety officers that are already stretched thin.
Current state law requires that kids 12 and under must wear a live vest when on a boat that is less than 19 feet long. The new county law says everybody must wear the vests when they are on rivers that include the South, Middle and North Fork and main stem of the Snoqualmie River, the South Fork of the Skykomish, the Tolt River, the Raging River, the Sammamish River, the Cedar River, the White River and the Green River.
It applies to people intertubing, rafting, using a surfboard, canoe or kayak. Swimmers or people wading more than 5 feet from shore or in water more than 4 feet deep would also have to wear life vests. The new ordinance does not apply to people at designated public beaches or for people who are skin diving.
Dunn said the language was perhaps too specific and might require anglers to wear live vests if they waded too far into the river.
"I want to flag that as an issue," he said.
An amendment exempting adults who are fishing was passed.
Dunn also questioned whether it made sense to require intertubers to wear a life jacket because the tube itself is buoyant.
"Are we in redundant territory here?" he asked.
A sheriff's department representative said often tubers are unable to get back to the device they're riding when they fall off.
Dunn said he voted "no" on the ordinance because it was "too much of a blanket approach" and he worried it would eventually be expanded.
"I think it's the beginning of the era of life jackets in King County," he said.
Councilwoman Julia Patterson, a "yes" vote, said the same arguements Dunn made agains the life vest ordinance were also made against laws requiring child safety seats in automobiles and banning smoking in public places.
"We are improving the health for everyone because of these laws that we pass," she said.