One debate amongst sportsmen with active outdoors lifestyles has long been the use of safety equipment. We see year after year results of either no or inadequate use of the different safety equipment and measures. The results, obviously and unfortunately, are injuries or deaths that could have been avoided if the safety precautions were taken.
Each year I have writing this column, I make a note to cover tree stand injuries and deaths prior to the hunting season for instance. It happens every year with no exceptions. Hunters take to the trees or box stands, and we have someone who falls and either has a life changing injury or dies. All it would take a safety harness properly worn and used, and the accident could have been avoided.
Laws have been passed requiring riders of all-terrain vehicles to wear helmets, and many places require safety goggles or glasses as well. We have people riding too fast, many times on land they are familiar with and believe is safe for the speed they are driving, yet ultimately, they get thrown from the ATV and they are injured or die. The law requiring helmets to be worn has helped in saving lives, but I can rest assured that many of us, including myself at times, will not or have not worn a helmet each and every time riding a four wheeler.
Another safety item we regularly omit is the personal floatation device (PFD) or what is commonly called a life vest. Children under a certain age are required to where one when in a boat and on the water. Adults are offered an option. There are also requirements as to the type needed based on the type and size of boat and means of power.
As a note of disclosure, I am on the Elite Council with Johnson Outdoors. Johnson Outdoors makes a variety of equipment under different brands such as Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Extrasport, Carlisle Paddles, Humminbird, and Minn Kota, amongst others.
During one of our conversations amongst the pro-staff members, a debate arose on whether to display photos promoting our various products with or without a life vest on. Several of the staff live in warm water climates and rarely are fishing from a kayak with a shirt on, not to mention a PFD. The debate was whether this was in the best interest showing someone using the products without proper safety equipment on, regardless of whether it was law or not.
One of the frequent comments, and one that I am sure anyone who has ever worn a life vest will agree with, is they are cumbersome and uncomfortable. There is an adage, “necessity is the father of innovation.” Maybe money can be as well.
The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water and the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association are offering the money part. They are currently sponsoring a competition that offers $10,000 to the winner of a new design for a PFD that will encourage people to wear them while on the water.
The deadline is April 15, 2015. The design will be judged on four criteria: wearability, reliability, cost, and innovation. The designs can be hand drawn or they can be carried out as far as having a prototype. The best thing about this competition is nearly everyone who has ever been in a boat and had to wear one is an expert. You know what you do not like about existing PFDs. You also know what will be comfortable enough, and in a price range you would purchase, so that you would wear it.
You can enter your design at BoatUS.org/design.