Wear It. For Life!
Wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device is one of the most important decisions you can make when boating. By keeping you afloat, a life jacket can greatly increase your chance of surviving an unexpected fall overboard. Today, there are several types of life jackets available so you can find one that’s comfortable and convenient to wear. The FWC has joined the U.S. Coast Guard in raising awareness about the importance of wearing life jackets.
Tips For Selecting a Life Jacket
When shopping for a life jacket, consider what boating activities you’ll be taking part in and where you’ll be boating. Will you be boating near shore or offshore? Riding a personal watercraft? Waterskiing? Tubing? Wakeboarding? The new user-friendly life jacket labels that are being phased in make it easier to choose a life jacket that matches your swim skills, boating activity and other factors.
The new label features a performance level icon and number. Lifejackets with a lower-level number offer more mobility, comfort, and style with good flotation and are intended for near shore (calm water) activities.
A higher-level number lifejacket offers greater flotation, stability in the water, and ability to turn a wearer face up. These life jackets are more appropriate for offshore activities where rescue times could take longer.
Warnings icons on the new label indicate activities the life jacket in question is not designed for, such waterskiing or operating a personal watercraft.
The turning ability icon provides information about whether the life jacket in question is capable or designed to turn an unconscious person face up.
Check the label on the inside of the life jacket to find the U.S. Coast Guard approval number, which indicates the life jacket has been tested for performance. This approval number is on old and new life jacket labels.
The life jacket label will provide size information related to weight and chest size. The best way to make sure your life jacket fits snugly is to try it on. Make sure you fasten all straps, buckles and zippers to ensure a secure fit.
NOTE: Don’t worry if your current life jacket does not have the new label; you can still use it if it’s in good condition and appropriate for the activity.
Why It's Important to Wear a Life Jacket
- Over 60% of boating fatalities in Florida are caused by people falling overboard and drowning and 80 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Drownings are rare when boaters are wearing an appropriate life jacket.
- Statistics show over half of boating fatality victims were reported as being able to swim. Even the strongest swimmers may be unprepared and unable to respond to a fall overboard.
- Being an experienced boater is not a reliable predictor of surviving a fall overboard. On average about a half to two thirds of boating operators involved in Florida boating fatalities are men over the age of 30 with over 100 hours of experience on the water.
Fact: Wearing a life jacket can save your life.
Life Jacket Regulations Reminder
All vessels are required to have onboard a wearable U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or PFD for each person. The life jackets must be:
- The appropriate size for the intended wearer
- In serviceable condition
- Within easy access
Anyone operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear an approved life jacket or PFD. Inflatable PFDs are prohibited for personal watercraft use.
No one may water ski or use another aquaplaning device unless they are wearing a USCG-approved life jacket or PFD. Inflatable PFDs are prohibited for skiing/aquaplaning.
A child under the age of six must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is underway.Find Boating Regulations
- Learn About the New Life Jacket Label
- National Safe Boating Council
- U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Information
- Florida Safety Equipment Requirements by Vessel Size
- Boating and Waterways
- FWC's Boating Accident Statistical Report
- Florida Boating Safety Course Options
- Boating Safety Tips
- Boat Ramp Finder