September 09, 2020| Safety
By: Larry Orlans
There are both Federal and State regulations regarding the use of life jackets. Every boat must carry an appropriately sized life jacket for each person on board. All children under the age of 13 MUST BE WEARING a life jacket while the boat is underway. They may remove their life jacket while the boat is anchored.
Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboard users must also carry a life jacket. The regulations do not require that they be worn, but it is a good idea to do so because it is almost impossible to don one after you are already in the water. The life jacket should have a plastic whistle attached to it, to satisfy the requirement that you have a sound-producing device with you.
In addition to the wearing requirements, it is very important to verify that the life jacket is properly fitted. If it is too loose, it could come off when the wearer is in the water. The shoulder portion of the life jacket should not rise above the ear lobe when lifted at that location. If the child-sized life jacket is equipped with a crotch strap, be sure that it is adjusted so that the jacket will not slide off the child.
Check your life jackets at the beginning of the boating season to be sure that they are still in good condition. Any torn or deteriorated ones should be discarded. When buying new ones, verify that they are U.S. Coast Guard approved, on the printed label inside of the life jacket.
Always buy the brightest colored life jackets possible. You want to be easily seen in the water. You may find that allowing young children to pick out their own life jacket, as long it meets the above criteria, reduces their reluctance to wear it.
Infographic from BoatU.S Foundation.
Larry Orlans is a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Instructor and Auxiliary Operations Officer for Flotilla 15-10.