Idaho PSA campaign will target male boaters, paddle enthusiasts

Male boaters in the 25-40 year age group, and canoers and kayakers are the primary targets of a three-year public service announcement campaign kicking off this summer in Idaho, reported Ann Van Buren with the Department of Parks & Recreation.Van Buren, the agency's education specialist, said the "Sport the Vest" media blitz is aimed at these specific audiences because they are both "high risk" groups. It has apparently been difficult to reach these people with traditional education messages."Subject areas," Van Buren said, "are life jackets, stupid things alcohol makes boaters do, and dressing for cold water, as these remain our leading 'hit list' of contributing factors."While the PSAs will contain some humor, Van Buren insisted they will also have a sharper edge, because "we want people to sit up and pay attention."These advertisements are intended to compliment, not replace, Idaho's public school and instructor training programs. They also correspond with information posted on the agency website (http://www.idahoparks .org/boatingsafety) and by a link from http://www.boatidaho.org."Our marketing plan is driven by the accident, fatality and boater registration statistics as well as boater surveys," she explained. Idaho has seen a decline in powerboat fatalities over the past four years, including mishaps involving personal watercraft, Van Buren said. The problem remains, however, that fully half of the Gem State's boating fatalities stem from swiftwater paddling mishaps."It's because of whitewater and cold water temperatures year around," she noted. "That's a deadly combination. The percentage of swiftwater fatalities has not declined."Alas, she said the swiftwater fraternity, and especially the males ages 25 to 40 who constitute the largest block of fatal accident victims, "is a tough market to penetrate" with boating safety information. This year, PSAs will be aired in Coeur d'Alene, nearby Spokane, Wash., from which lots of northern Idaho boaters hail, and Boise markets, Van Buren reported. Budget limitations may ham- per the initial effort, but she said the agency is seeking "cost share partners" to help sponsor the program in 2001 and 2002.Over the past 14 years since the inception of Idaho's boating enforcement and education program, fatalities have subsided nearly 50 percent in the powerboat circle, despite constant growth in registration, Van Buren stated.Paddle craft fatalities have taken the lead as Idaho's whitewater rivers generate an enormous industry. The number of victims not wearing a life jacket is down ten percent in ten years, nonetheless it represents 72 percent of Idaho's boating drownings, she said."PFD compliance is largely an adult issue in Idaho," she said. "Rarely do children drown in boating accidents. Alcohol use as a contributing factor is creeping up to represent 31 percent of boating fatalities despite tougher penalties enacted in 1996."Overall, Van Buren continued, boating fatalities are down 40 percent over the last decade, despite a 25 percent increase in registered boats. Personal watercraft accidents and injuries peaked in 1994 at 30 percent of total boating accidents, but have subsided significantly over the last three years to 18 percent.# # #This story originally appeared in the June/July 2000 issue of "Small Craft Advisory," a publication of the National Assn. of State Boating Law Administrators.

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