As the extended holiday weekend approaches, families with children will be looking to "get caught" by the Missouri State Highway Patrol while boating. That's because the Water Patrol Division will be handing out free t-shirts to children wearing a life jacket while boating on the Lake of the Ozarks.

As the extended holiday weekend approaches, families with children will be looking to "get caught" by the Missouri State Highway Patrol while boating. That's because the Water Patrol Division will be handing out free t-shirts to children wearing a life jacket while boating on the Lake of the Ozarks. 

In partnership with Ameren Missouri, the t-shirts are a nice reward for being safe and a fun reminder to always wear your life jacket whenever you are on the Lake.

Water Patrol Division Capt. Matt Walz said the number of water enthusiasts on or around Lake of the Ozarks over the upcoming long weekend will be significant.  

“We hope everyone enjoys their weekend, but exercise caution and respect the dangers that exist around the water.  It’s important for children to wear life jackets when they are around the water,” he said.” Many docks will become unstable platforms with the rough water, so life jackets are important on docks as well as boats.  Our goal is that each and every person makes it home safely at the end of the weekend.”

Walk said the patrol recommends starting every boating trip by wearing a life jacket. Drownings can occur quickly and often involve victims who consider themselves good swimmers. 

”Parents set an example for their kids every day. Start every boating trip by wearing your life jacket and make sure your children are wearing life jackets too. It's such a simple lesson that can save a life," said Jeff Green, supervisor of shoreline management for Ameren Missouri. "We want everyone to have a safe and fun time at the Lake of the Ozarks and return home safe."

In Missouri, children under the age of seven are required to wear a life jacket while boating. It's important for boaters to be familiar with their life jackets and ensure they fit properly. The most common error for youth life jackets is allowing children to wear ones that are too big. If a child's life jacket is too big or not tightened properly, it may not support their head above water. To choose a properly fitting life jacket:

Choose a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket that is right for the child's weight.

Tighten all straps until snug.

Check the fit by lifting up on the shoulders of the life jacket. If it hits the top of the child's ears, it's too big.

There are many styles of life jackets that provide style and comfort for recreational boaters. Self-inflating models which resemble suspenders or even a waist pouch are available for adults.

Ameren Missouri and the Missouri State Highway Patrol encourage all boaters, regardless of age, to wear a life jacket when on the water.