Public hearing scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13 on Zack’s Law to prevent cold-water shock drownings

A public hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13 at 3:30 p.m. in the House Transportation Committee on House Bill 1595, also known as “Zack's Law.”

Named in memory of Zachary Rager who drowned in the Chehalis River, the measure authored by Rep. Peter Abbarno would require state government agencies and local governments to erect signs on or near bridges and along waterways to warn people of cold-water shock and drowning hazards.

“Many people don't understand the dangers of cold-water shock. They don't realize how cold our rivers, lakes and streams are in Washington state during a warm, sunny day in the spring or fall. Even an experienced swimmer can succumb to cold-shock response in only a couple of minutes. Zack's Law seeks to educate, inform and warn people about the risk of diving or jumping into cold water,” said Abbarno, R-Centralia.

Abbarno authored the legislation on behalf of Rager's family. The 18-year-old drowned March 23, 2021 when his body reacted to the cold water of the Chehalis River after he jumped from an old railroad bridge on the Willapa Hills Trail in Lewis County during a sunny day. He had previously jumped from the same location several times.

Zack's Law would require state government agencies and local governments to erect signs on or near bridges and along waterways to warn people of cold-water shock and drowning hazards. Signs would be erected at the same time upgrades are made to bridges and other water-adjacent infrastructure so there would be no significant costs to taxpayers. The legislation also creates a mechanism for the public to donate funds to the state for the purpose of erecting signs warning of cold-water shock hazards along Washington waterways.

“This is about saving lives. The fact that we were able to secure a public hearing during the first week of the 2022 legislative session speaks volumes to the interest in this bill,” added Abbarno.

Thursday's public hearing will be broadcast live online on TVW. Those wishing to submit written comment, testify remotely on the bill, or let their position be noted for the legislative record, may go to: https://app.leg.wa.gov/csi/House. Select “Transportation Committee” with the meeting schedule of 01/13/22 3:30 p.m., and then select “HB 1595 Bridge jumping signs.”

Those who also wish to provide written comments on the bill directly to representatives in their legislative district may go here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill/1595.

“I highly encourage citizen participation. Let's move this bill forward so another family doesn't have to lose a loved one to cold-water drownings,” said Abbarno.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov