Children get a thrill from being on the open water, whether it's rowing, paddling, sailing or motoring. Starting this year, New Jersey State Police aim to keep the number of drowning tragedies as low as possible.

The "Kids Don't Float" initiative is a partnership between New Jersey law enforcement and operators of public boating centers around the state. Each participating dock area is equipped with a colorful stand, about five feet high, containing about 10 life jackets. Children can use them for free, and need only return them when they're finished using them. It's like a life-jacket library.

"It's done completely on the honor system," said Trooper Brian Weiner today at the Sands Point Park Boat Launch in Waretown. "The life jackets are provided by the state police. We're hoping that it'll encourage people to use a life jacket while boating."

New Jersey and federal marine regualtions require everyone under age 13 to wear a flotation device when aboard vessels.

Weiner says the idea has a long heritage and is growing longer legs year by year. "This program originated in Homer, Alaska, back in 1996," he says. "A local fire department designed and built 15 of the boxes and distributed them. It's been a success since then."

But they're new to the Garden State. The stand unveiled in Waretown is the sixth to become functional, with five more in spots along the Ocean County bayfront and on Long Beach Island.

State troopers have encouraged youngsters to become involved by commissioning them to create the lifejacket stands. The one now in place in Sandy Point Park was built by students in the Manchester school district.