‘Wear It!’: Life jackets save lives

Vessel DocumentationCoast Guard Safety Alerts

National Safe Boating Week 2015 runs from May 16-22, 2015. The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Wear It!’, so what better way to kick-off boating safety week than with a post about the most important piece of boating safety equipment: A life jacket. Stay tuned all week as we share important boating safety information, and feel free to share your own advice in the comments below. Boat safe!

One of the most crucial pieces of equipment you can have onboard your boat is a life jacket. The Coast Guard recommends that you always wear a life jacket while underway on a boat and require passengers to do the same. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

When people talk about boating safety, there is often a common theme that runs through each discussion: Always wear your life jacket.

Why is this? It’s been proven time and time again that wearing life jacket while boating can significantly increase your rate of survival should something unexpected happen.

In fact, the Coast Guard’s recreational boating statistics from 2014 show that where a cause of death was known, 78 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, it is reported that 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Children should wear specialized life jackets made specifically for children. Ensure any life jackets fit properly, and are appropriate for the water activity they are participating in. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Children should wear specialized life jackets made specifically for children. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A life jacket doesn’t just dramatically increase your chances for survival, it also buys you time – falling into the water without a life jacket requires you to exert energy to keep yourself afloat while you await assistance. Wearing a life jacket nearly eliminates expending that energy, as it does the work for you.

In a presidential proclamation for National Safe Boating Week, President Barack Obama states that, “By always wearing life jackets…boaters and passengers can further enjoy their safety and well-being and help guarantee a great day on the water that does not end in tragedy.”

Of particular note is ensuring all passengers wear life jackets – especially children.

The Coast Guard mandates that all children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket, but many states have their own laws regarding child life jacket wear. If the state does have a law, the state’s law takes precedence, regardless if the age is younger or older.

Even with these laws and federal mandates in place, in many of the child-drowning cases, children are not wearing life jackets. If you are boating with a child, the best advice is to always have them wear a life jacket.

“No one thinks twice now about strapping their kid into a child safety seat or wearing a seatbelt, so why would it be any different with a life jacket?” said Tom Dardis, a Coast Guard boating safety specialist.

Here are some additional reminders about life jackets:

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Read the label!
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Check your life jacket is in good serviceable condition, with no tears or holes. Test to make sure it works properly.
  • Life jackets meant for adult sized people do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets based on their weight. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to ‘grow into.’

 

This boating season, don’t let you or your loved ones become a statistic – ensure you and anyone aboard your boat always wears a lifejacket. Need help on what type of life jacket to choose? Check out the Coast Guard’s brochure on how to choose the right life jacket to fit your needs.

“If you’re going to be boating, always wear your lifejacket and require the same of all your passengers,” said Joe Carro, a Coast Guard boating safety specialist. “Life jackets save lives.”

Want to ensure you have all the required equipment, including life jackets, onboard your boat before getting underway? Download the new Coast Guard boating safety app and utilize the ‘Review Safety Equipment’ feature – depending on the size and propulsion equipment for your vessel, the app will create a customized list of what equipment is required onboard.

U.S. Coast Guard image.

U.S. Coast Guard image.

For more information on boating safety, please visit the Coast Guard’s boating safety website.