U.S Coast Guard pushing for paddle craft safety this summer

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- This past weekend's incident where a father and son drowned after their kayak flipped on the Alabama River, serves to reinforce the U.S Coast Guard's push for paddle craft safety and life jacket use this summer.

They especially want to raise awareness for people just getting started on paddle crafts. It's not something you can do safely, with little to no experience.

"We're getting out there and having an on the water outreach program where we talk to the kayakers and the canoeists in their own environment," said Terry Mills.

Mills is the Flotilla Commander for the Whitesburg Ditto Landing U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Mills said the Coast Guard classifies paddle crafts as a vessel, therefore they have requirements.

"Learn how to operate the kayak and the canoe, and how to get in and out of them safely. [Learn] how to save yourself and others in case there's an issue, such as we've had recently occur," he explained.

It's recommended to have flotation devices to throw out, whistles for signaling, and of course life jackets on board.

"The misconception of 'they're safer and smaller and easier to maneuver' is just that, a misconception. They can actually be more dangerous," said Mills.

Over the past few years paddle craft accidents have increased by almost 30 percent.

"You most definitely have to have a life jacket on a paddle craft because you're right there with the water, right on top of it. You don't have that opportunity to grab it before you go in," Mills explained.

In Alabama, children 8 and under have to have a life jacket on at all times. That's also the lowest recommended age to be in a paddle craft.

"As far as them being passengers, make sure your vessel is outfitted for an extra person on board. Don't try to put two people in a single person kayak or canoe," said Mills.

He wants to reiterate that it's just like when you get in your car you put your seat belt on. When you get in the water, you need to put your life jacket on.