You love getting out on the water with your family, but it’s important to remember to follow all relevant safety guidelines, both for your protection and to remain in accordance with the law. If you’re looking into boat rentals and want to know about how federal life jacket regulations apply to your children, read on to learn more.
When are life jackets required on a recreational boat?
Federal law requires that you have a wearable life jacket in good condition for each person on your vessel. This needs to be a Coast Guard-approved life jacket that is the appropriate size for each passenger.
It’s recommended that you wear your life jacket at all times when the boat is in motion. Boats that are longer than 16 feet also need to carry a throwable device approved by the Coast Guard. Note that these devices are not required for kayaks or canoes.
What are the federal life jacket requirements for my children?
Children under 13 years old are required to a wear a life jacket at all times unless they are in an enclosed cabin or below deck. This must be a life jacket in good condition that’s been approved by the Coast Guard. Some states have differing regulations for life jackets and which are approved, so you’ll want to check out state rules before heading out.
The fact is that accidents can happen quickly, with no warning, so it’s a best practice for everyone on board to wear a life jacket at all times. Any annoyance at having to wear one is clearly outweighed by the benefits should you need to use the life jacket. They save lives and allow you to assist others who may be in danger should an accident occur.
How should a life jacket fit on a child?
The life jacket must be snug enough so that the child can’t slip out of it. For infants and children under 50 lbs, the life jacket should include a crotch strap to make sure the fit is snug enough, along with a large float collar for head support.
Before purchasing a life jacket for a child, check the user label. This will show the weight range the jacket is approved for, along with appropriate age ranges.
How do I select the right life jacket for my child?
The Coast Guard has five classifications for life jackets, three of which are approved for use by children. The first is offshore life jackets intended for extended survival in rough seas or the open ocean. The other two types—shore buoyant vests and flotation aids—are only intended for calm inland waters. Choose the type that best fits the boating you intend to do.
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