After meeting with park officials Louisville Metro Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, has revised an ordinance that would require children to wear personal floatation devices while at any public waterway within the city limits.
Originally, the bill required anyone 12 and under to wear a life jacket while in or around any river, lake or creek accessible to the general public. But critics raised concern about the ordinance’s broadness and cost to residents, who could be subject to a $100 fine.
The amended ordinance only requires a life preserver for children 11 or younger who enter, swim or engage in recreational activities in any navigable waterway.
Welch says she decided to change the language of the ordinance after meeting with Metro Parks, Waterfront Park and 21st Century Park officials. She hopes the revisions will make its passage easier on the council.
“My goal in all of this is not to have anymore childhood drownings in our community. We’ve had so many this summer and we just need to raise the awareness of the parents and the guardians of these children when they’re around these waters that are just so dangerous,” she says.
Drowning is listed as the second leading cause of accidental death for children 4 years old and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, many of the recent deaths cited by Welch were either at hotel pools, private resorts or waterways outside the city and wouldn’t have been covered by the law.
However, Welch says it’s better to have the law than not.
“This was brought to me by the police department. It’s something our public safety officers want here in our community to have this tool to help protect children,” she says.
The revised legislation also includes certain exemptions for children who are passengers on commercial vessels licensed by the United States Coast Guard, such as the Belle of Louisville and Spirit of Jefferson.
Welch will officially withdrawn the first version of the bill this Wednesday at the Public Safety Committee meeting.