SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. – In the last month, at least 5 people have lost their lives to area lakes and rivers – deaths that could have prevented if they were only wearing life jackets. That's why the Spokane County Sheriff's Office cracked down Saturday, in a patrol emphasis focusing on people not wearing them.
"I've been doing this enforcement for over 10 years, and this seems like the worst year we've had for drownings," Spokane County Marine Patrol Deputy Travis Pendell told KHQ. "I don't know why, but we're doing what we can."
On the banks of the river, Deputy Pendell and others scoured the water, looking for people breaking the law. If you're on moving water, everyone – children and adults – must be wearing a life jacket. If you're boating on a lake, children under 12 must have them on, and there must be enough on board for each person.
The penalty is a $76 dollar ticket, but you may be surprised to hear, you could even be arrested if you're caught without one.
"It should be enough that you're saving your own life by wearing a life jacket," Deputy Pendell added. "But if you're saving your life and it's not going to cost you $76 dollars, now that's enough. You're going to wear your life jacket."
While KHQ was there Saturday, no tickets were issued; Deputy Pendell told us every person he saw on the water was complying.
One of them we met was Dustin Hardy, hitting the river on rafts with a group of friends.
"We're going to float from state line down," Hardy said, with his life jacket on. "We're hoping it'll be a good time, and we're always safe."