Wearing Personal Flotation Devices
Most drowning deaths occur near shore and in calm weather, as opposed to at sea during a storm. This means that a life jacket should always be worn, even in seemingly low-danger situations and waters. It is the boat operator’s responsibility to show passengers how to correctly put on their PFDs/life jackets and tell them to wear them.
It is important to not only carry a lifejacket on board, but also to wear one at all times. Research has shown that most recreation boating drownings may not have occurred if the victim had been wearing a PFD/life jacket. Today’s PFDs/life jackets are created to be easily and comfortably worn and new designs allow more maneuverability for every boating activity.
When boaters experience heavy winds and waves, it can be quite difficult to locate and put on a lifejacket. Cold water can make this more difficult, or even impossible. If a boater or passenger falls into the water with their lifejacket on board, the boat could be too far away to reach. It is better to wear a lifejacket at all times than to risk being stranded in the water without one. Wearing a life jacket or PFD at all times is the single most important way that a boater can be safe and prevent a drowning accident.
Life Jacket Requirements for Children
All children age 13 years or younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard- approved life jacket at all times while on a moving boat or other watercraft. If the child is below deck or within an enclosed cabin of the boat, it is not required that he wear a life jacket.
Some states have set forth child life jacket requirements that differ from those set forth by the U.S. Coast Guard. In such a case, the state requirements will be applicable on any waters that are under that state’s jurisdiction.
Operators should carry an appropriately-sized life jacket for all children on board. The label should be checked to ensure that the child’s weight falls within the appropriate range shown. Children’s life jackets are approved for specific weight categories, and the label should include a statement that will specify whether the jacket is suitable for children weighing less than 30 pounds, 30-50 pounds, less than 50 pounds or 50-90 pounds.