Has Washington State gone overboard?

You can’t make this stuff up. As ridiculous as it may seem, King County in Washington State has made it illegal to swim without a lifejacket on or in a major river – at least until October 31. As Toronto’s National Post columnist Chris Selley points out,“the Founding Fathers might take serious issue with mandatory life jacket laws for swimmers.” However, he also says, tongue in cheek (we think), that the argument to ban “free” swimming is, in terms of numbers, quite persuasive:

“By the Lifesaving Society’s count, an average of around 200 people drown every year in Canada while swimming, wading or otherwise being in water but not in a boat. (That’s not including the 10% of total drownings that occur in bath tubs, because wearing a life jacket in the tub would be silly. Uh … right?)

Those drowning victims add up to roughly four times as many people as are killed in an average year while cycling and about 50 times as many as are killed in an average year on the slopes of Canadian ski resorts.”

The numbers show that we’re more at risk from activities that we take for granted than from many of the things we worry about – or are encouraged to worry about. The logic of precaution seems inexorable: As Selley concludes, “Nobody needs to swim, after all, with or without a life jacket. Nobody swims to work. It’s pure, decadent recreation. And it’s killing us by the hundreds. For how much longer can we turn a blind eye?”

What do you think? Has Washington gone overboard or should we continue to swim blind to the risks?

2 Responses to Has Washington State gone overboard?

  1. Jeff Stevens says:

    Ridiculous it is. I’m also a bit surprised that the STATS blog didn’t point out that death is not the only reason we require helmets for bikers (and skiiiers?). Injury is another very compelling reason. While only 50 may DIE on bikes a year, how many serious head injuries occur? And how many injuries would be prevented by the use of a life jacket? I can’t think of any.

    More encroachment on freedom. A shame.

  2. malby3 says:

    No question–Washington State has gone ’round the bend in regulation. The environmental-academic-regulatory complex is very very big here, with “research” constantly required and the ususal suspects getting all the research funding–billions of dollars.

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