Gear-Check: PFDs

PFDs only work if you’re wearing them

This time of year, sportsmen are hitting the waterways, carrying on the traditions of their forebears, and celebrating a way of life that is unique and something to be proud of.

Caught up in the excitement of fishing tournaments, offshore trips and the myriad of other enticements, it’s easy to miss news of the deaths that occur out there, too — deaths that are as routine, as they are tragic. Maybe we choose to overlook such news.

More tragic than the loss of life, is the sure knowledge that most of these deaths could have been prevented if better choices had been made by someone involved. The choice to remain sober, or to designate a sober boater; the choice to practice the buddy system when you are on the water, or to set check-in times with someone who knows your plans; and the choice to wear a life jacket are three that come to mind immediately.

Maybe you don’t drink or smoke/vape, or maybe you would never think to go boating or wade fishing alone. Many of you out there fall into these two categories.

But every one of us who ventures onto the waterways has the choice to wear a life jacket or personal floatation device (PFD).

Majority of drowning victims were not wearing PFDs

According to BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, more than two-thirds of all boating fatalities are drowning incidents, and 90% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.

A variety of floatation devices are on the market, each with a unique set of pros and cons. The appropriateness of a flotation device for a given activity is a matter of the device’s maximum buoyancy, performance level and limitations. You should choose your life jacket based on your boating activities and conditions. One size does not fit all when it comes to PFDs.

Life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved to meet carriage requirements.

Requirements for Life Jackets

A Federal Regulation requires operators of all boats to have at least one wearable life jacket or personal flotation device, for each person aboard. Under the  regulation a throwable PFD (Type IV) will no longer qualify as a life jacket on boats less than 16 feet.

Remember, safety is your responsibility. Compliance with federal and state law is also your responsibility. This article is meant to be a reminder to check your safety equipment, and is not meant to be legal advice.

For general information about PFDs and the importance of wearing them, visit: Life Jackets : BoatUS Foundation.

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