Safety Karma

Despite my best intentions to avoid unwanted attention from the law, I got pulled over twice this past month while enjoying the outdoors. The first incident was apparently triggered by some fast pedaling through Spokane’s lively West Central neighborhood on my way to a meeting at a nearby coffee shop. With my bulging backpack, dark sunglasses and quick turns through the neighborhood, it’s feasible I looked like a drug runner to the two officers who took up flanking positions as I sat there on my mountain bike, fishing for my wallet.

I had been wondering for a while if the SPD really pulled people over for not wearing bike helmets, and now, here I was, a block away from my house with lights flashing behind me, answering that question for myself. Since running out the door late for a meeting and forgetting your bike helmet isn’t a serious crime (just a lapse of good judgment), they let me go with a scolding: Wear your bike helmet! I assured them I usually do.

The second recreational run-in with the law, this time on Lake Coeur d’Alene, was in the middle of the photo shoot for this month’s cover. We were paddling around on SUPs a safe stone’s throw away from the boat launch at Tubbs Hill when someone from our paddling posse pointed out the approaching marine deputy. Before we could make a run for it, a loud voice over the megaphone was directing us to please make for the docks and get off our boards.

Earlier in the evening, in a hurry to not miss the best photo-shooting light, our PFDs, which are required gear for paddlers of stand up paddleboards and other recreational watercraft (see the sidebar with this month’s cover story for the full set of rules), got left behind in our vehicles. Thanks to the leniency of the lake police, we were able to grab the required safety gear and continue paddling along Tubbs with PFDs on our boards.

With summer just getting started, and two safety violations already under my belt, I figure I’m in need of some safety Kharma about now. So here goes. While out playing in the water this summer, whether you’re out on the lake cruising along on a SUP or a wakeboard or floating down the river in a raft, inner tube, or less sea-worthy craft, use good judgment (yours, or, in case yours is temporarily lacking, the good judgment of someone who cares about you). Maybe that means wearing a PFD (life vest if you’re old school) even if you think it’s overkill. Or it might mean passing on another pint of ale (or Keystone Ice if you’re really old school) before getting in the water. With a couple of river deaths already behind us here in the Inland Northwest this boating season, both involving paddlers not wearing PFDs, make smart choices and stay on the right side of the law, and the water, this summer. //

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