Lawmakers wear life jackets to promote water safety awareness

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JEFFERSON CITY - Since 2012, there have been 138 water-related fatalities in Missouri.

Of those, 92 have been drowning-related incidents. 

"The most common type of water fatality we have around Lake of the Ozark is the drowning, and that can be from a boat, from a dock, or even from the shore," said Cpl. Scott White of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "Sometimes alcohol plays a role but a lot of times it's just inexperience around the water."

Members of the Missouri General Assembly wore life jackets in the Capitol Wednesday as part of a campaign supported by the Lake of the Ozarks Water Safety Council. 

The event kicks off part of National Safe Boating Week and the year-long 2015 North American Safe Boating Campaign. The campaign works to promote safe and responsible boating practices, and the importance of voluntary, consistent life jacket use by boaters. 

Wednesday's event was hosted by Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, and Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles. 

In a press release, the representatives said 80 percent of water-related deaths in Missouri in 2014 could have been prevented by wearing a properly fitted life jacket.

White said the most commonly cited excuse for not wearing a life jacket is comfort.

"Some of the excuses we hear about people not wearing a life jacket is that they're uncomfortable. You have to remember that a lot of times when people are out on the water it's very hot out and they feel it's uncomfortable and they don't want to wear it," White said. 

He said that events like the one held at the Capitol are a good way to refresh Missourians' minds about proper water safety.

"Especially with the beginning of boating season, people just need a reminder, as they do on the highway with certain driving tasks that they do. No texting and driving, make sure you slow down. I think these campaigns do work, especially since we have a huge contingent of people that come from out of sate and out of the area."