SWEEPING changes to South Australian life jacket laws came into effect this week and will be enforced following a 12-month education campaign.
The changes coincide with a new voucher system to encourage boat users to replace old life jackets with modern varieties.
New regulations make the wearing of life jackets mandatory on vessels and in water activities more often than previously required.
Local life jacket service agent Lorraine Burston of Taylor Marine Mount Gambier welcomed the changes and said they will improve safety and reduce drowning risks.
“South Australian life jacket laws are now more aligned with the stricter standards in Victoria and New South Wales,” Ms Burston said.
“Even people on stand-up paddle boards now need to wear a life jacket if they are more than 400 metres from shore.
“It’s important for boat users to ensure life jackets are in working order and to wear them as required by the new laws.
“These changes will reduce the risk of drowning and they were necessary given the number of fatalities in South Australian waters in recent years.”
For vessels less than 4.8m in length fitted with an engine, all persons on-board must now wear a life jacket at all times when under way or at anchor.
For vessels 4.8m to 12m in length, children aged 12 or younger must wear a life jacket at all times and anyone over the age of 12 must wear a lifejacket when on the open deck during times of heightened risk.
Times of heightened risk can include when operating alone, after sunset or before sunrise, when crossing an ocean bar, at times of restricted visibility or when in an area subject to a gale, storm force, hurricane force, severe thunderstorm or severe weather warning from the Bureau of Meteorology.
The new laws aim to reduce the chance of drownings.
There were 168 drownings in South Australia over the past decade, with approximately one fifth involving boating and watercraft activities.
The State Government will also conduct an Old4New life jacket upgrade program, offering $20 vouchers in exchange for old, unsuitable, obsolete or damaged life jackets, with a limit of two vouchers per person.
The vouchers can be redeemed when purchasing a new life jacket at participating retailers.
The changes follow extensive consultation with industry, community groups and the public.
Whether life jackets are worn or carried aboard, they must be in good condition, of a suitable type for the area of water and the correct size for each person aboard.
“We want all South Australians to be able to enjoy our spectacular coastline and river system and we want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible while out on the water,” Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said.
“Too many people lose their lives unnecessarily because they don’t wear life jackets and, while we don’t want to stop people enjoying themselves, we want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to reduce serious injuries and deaths out on the water.
“To make sure we’ve got these changes right, we’ll spend the first 12 months educating people and giving everyone the opportunity to ensure they have the proper life jackets.”
More information on life jackets can be found at the State Government’s boating and marine website or by calling the Boating Safety Unit on 1300 183 046.