An essential piece of equipment for water safety is a Personal Flotation Device. There are two types of PFDs: those that can be thrown (throwable) and those that can be worn (wearable). A life jacket is the wearable version of a PFD.
Most deaths associated with boating mishaps result from people not wearing a life jacket. Thus, it is recommended that all passengers always wear a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket when aboard a vessel.
Wearing a life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard is also subject to specific laws, including these:
- Everyone on board must wear a life jacket that the US Coast Guard has approved. All life jackets, including those for children, must be fitted appropriately.
- The location of life jackets must be easily accessible by everyone in case of an emergency. Additionally, these life jackets must be in good working order.
- Boats over 16 feet in length must also have a throwable device of Type IV, such as a ring, a cushion, or a horseshoe buoy. If someone falls overboard, it must also be accessible.
- When operating a boat under 26 feet in length, any child under six must wear a Type I, II, or III Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while the boat is underway.
- All water skiers and those who operate, ride on, or are towed behind personal watercraft must wear Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V life jackets. The use of inflatable Personal Flotation Devices is prohibited during these activities.