As the weather warms up and the sun shines bright in western North Carolina, people are eagerly dusting off their boats and getting ready to hit the water.

From kayaking on the French Broad River to fishing on Lake Lure, the region has no shortage of opportunities for water-based fun. But amidst all the excitement, it's important to remember the most important safety rule of all: wear your life jacket.

According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, over 80% of boating-related fatalities could have been prevented if the victim had been wearing a life jacket. That's a staggering statistic, and it underscores just how important it is to make sure that you and your loved ones are properly outfitted with life-saving gear.

While it's true that life jackets can be uncomfortable and bulky, modern designs have come a long way in recent years. There are now a wide variety of options available, from sleek, low-profile inflatable vests to high-visibility models designed specifically for paddlers. No matter what your style or activity level, there is a life jacket out there that will keep you safe and comfortable.

Of course, simply wearing a life jacket isn't enough to guarantee your safety on the water. You also need to make sure that your gear is properly fitted and in good condition. Before heading out on your boat, take the time to check that all of your life jackets are the appropriate size for each person on board, and that all buckles and straps are securely fastened. Additionally, make sure that your life jackets are in good condition and free from rips, tears, or other signs of wear and tear.

Finally, it's important to remember that accidents can happen to anyone, no matter how experienced or cautious you may be. By wearing a life jacket, you're not only protecting yourself, but you're also setting a good example for others. Encourage your friends and family to make safety a top priority, and be sure to follow all of the recommended guidelines for boating in western North Carolina.

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, there's no better time to hit the water and enjoy all that western North Carolina has to offer. But always remember that safety comes first, and make sure that you and your loved ones are properly equipped with life jackets before setting sail. With the right gear and a little bit of caution, you can enjoy all the excitement of boating without putting yourself or others at risk.

WNCTIMES by Marjorie Farrington

To find out more water safety tips click here

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