It may not seem like the most stylish item to wear on a hot sunny day, but a personal floatation device can greatly increase your chance of survival in an accident. And if you think you will have enough time to grab and wear a lifejacket in case of an emergency, unfortunately, that is often not the case. According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), as many as 86% of drowning victims of recreational boating accidents in 2020 were not wearing a lifejacket.
USCG provides the following insights on when to wear a lifejacket, how it saves lives and steps to take to wear it correctly. You can also download/print a brochure on how to choose the right lifejacket, as well as download the official Boating Safety app.
- A recreational vessel must have a USCG-approved lifejacket for each person onboard.
- Federal law requires that when a vessel is underway, children under 13 years of age wear their lifejacket.
- Lifejackets are available with a wide variety of features. Some are inherent or standard while some are built into fishing vests or hunter coats. Others are inflated automatically upon hitting water or can be manually inflated by pulling a cord. Choose a jacket that is appropriate for the intended activity.
- The size of a lifejacket varies by brand and model, so it is always best to try it on in water to ensure your airway is clear.
- Check the manufacturer’s label to ensure that the jacket is a proper fit for your size and weight. Based on your weight, a lifejacket is available in four different sizes – for adults, youth, children and infants.
- Foam filled lifejackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once a year. Waterlogged, faded, or otherwise damaged lifejackets should be discarded.
It is imperative that you and your passengers wear lifejackets when out on the water this boating season. Remember – “a lifejacket cannot save you if you are not wearing it.” Always wear it when you are on, in or near water.