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Memorial Day weekend plans include water or off-highway trails? Bring a life jacket or a helmet

Posted May 26, 2017

PHOENIX — Arizona’s signature hot temperatures have returned just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, meaning many residents and visitors will flock to the mountains on their off-highway vehicles (OHV) or to our many waterways to escape the heat.

To ensure everyone has a safe holiday, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and its law enforcement partners statewide will be on the lookout for those operating OHVs or watercraft recklessly, including under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Memorial Day weekend is seen as the kick-off to Arizona’s boating and OHV season,” said Nathan Gonzalez, AZGFD public information officer. “Our main goal is to raise awareness to ensure the safety of everyone on our waterways and off-highway trails. It’s absolutely imperative that everyone protect themselves by either wearing a life jacket while on a water or a helmet while riding an OHV. Those are the two easiest things the public can do to protect themselves for when things unexpectedly go wrong.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in approximately 76 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2015, and that approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Every year families have to come to terms with a fun outing that turned into a tragedy, simply because someone isn’t wearing a life jacket or was operating their vessel under the influence,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really quite simple: make sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket – regardless of how old they are – and ensure your operator is sober.”

Having life jackets not only provides immediate protection for the boater, but may save a boater from receiving a citation for not having their children in a life jacket. State law requires all passengers 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket while on board and each passenger must have a properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life jacket available.

Those heading out on paddle boards, kayaks and canoes are also reminded that each are legally considered watercraft. Users are required to have a wearable PFD on board while on the water and must follow the same navigation laws pertaining to all watercraft.

OHV operators are also reminded that all riders under 18 years old must wear a helmet, regardless of off-highway vehicle type. In addition riders should remember to wear a seat belt at all times (if equipped), riding goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, pants, riding gloves and over-the-ankle boots.

For more information on boating in Arizona or to sign up for a safety course, visit To learn more about riding an OHV in Arizona, visit