Most boaters know that they are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket on board for every person in the boat. However, they often times don't get worn. Boating safety advocates recommend that all boaters and passengers not only have a life jacket, but also "WEAR IT" at all times while boating. Just like auto accidents, accidents on the water can happen all too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. Drowning is the reported cause of death in 3/4 of all boating fatalities - and 84% of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket in 2014.
Life Jacket Styles
Today's life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange styles we're used to. Life jackets that use inflatable technologies are cool and comfortable. They may resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack, and many inflate automatically when immersed in water. There are life jacket styles available for almost any boating activity.
- Cruising - When cruising in an open motorboat, comfort is key! Choose a life jacket that you'll want to wear. For ages 16 and older, inflatable life jackets are a great option.
- Fishing - Vest-style life jackets come with features such as pockets and clips to replace the fishing vest and keep the angler safe.
- PWC and Water Sports - Inherently buoyant lighter-weight life jackets are rugged, with multiple buckles and clasps to keep them secure after impact with the water.
- Hunting & Cold Weather - Full coats and suits are available in camouflage colors for waterfowl hunting and for thsoe who boat when air and water temperatures are cool.
- Paddling - Special life jackets are designed with large openings for arms to allow ease of movement.
- Children - Virtually all styles available are sized especially for children. Some even have cartoon characters, straps for pulling children from the water and high-visibility schemes.
- Pets - Life jackets are even available for our four-legged friends. It's helpful to purchase one with a handle on top to easily pull your pet out of the water if needed.
Choosing the Right Life Jacket
While today's life jackets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials, it is important to make sure the one you choose is right for you, your planned activities and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Follow these steps for trying on a life jacket before you choose it:
- Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight.
- Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped or buckled.
- Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket & ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up.
- If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.
- It is extremely important that you choose a properly fitting life jacket.
- Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
- Life jackets that are too small may not be able to keep your body afloat.
- 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.”
General Boating Safety Tips
- No matter what activity you have planned – boating, fishing, paddling and more – always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water. Accidents on the water can happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket.
- Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your water activity, and that it fits properly. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems. All persons should always wear a life jacket.
- Know your state’s boating laws before you get out on the water. Rules and laws can differ from state to state and violations can result in ticketing, fines or jail time.
- Take a boating safety course. Learn valuable tips that can help save your life in unexpected situations by taking a NASBLA (National Association of Boating Law Administrators) approved boating safety course.
- Make sure your boat is as prepared as you are. There are many items that need to be checked and re-checked on any boat. Schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons before you hit the water.
- Boat capacity. Be sure to know your boat’s capacity. If you have more on your boat than it was designed to handle, the boat may become unstable and capsize.
- Check the weather. Know the latest marine weather forecast prior to going out, and keep a regular check for changing conditions.
- Dress properly. Always dress for the weather, wearing layers if cooler weather, and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet.
- Always file a float plan. File a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip, boat, persons, towing or trailer vehicle, communication equipment, and emergency contacts. Find out more at floatplancentral.org.
- Always follow navigation rules. Know the ‘Rules of the Road’ such as operator's responsibility, maintaining a proper lookout, safe speed, crossing, meeting head-on and overtaking situations. Find out more at boatoncourse.com.
- Don’t drink while you boat. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 21% of deaths in 2014. Find out more at operationdrywater.org.
- Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Gasoline-powered engines on boats, including onboard generators, produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless and odorless gas that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it. Be sure to install and maintain a working CO detector, never block exhaust outlets, and always dock, beach or anchor at least 20 feet away from the nearest boat that is running a generator or engine.
- Keep in touch. Communication devices can be the most important piece of emergency equipment on board a vessel, especially in case of emergency. Cell phones, satellite phones, emergency position indicating radio beacons, VHF radios and personal locator beacons can all contribute in an emergency situation.
For more information on the North American Safe Boating Campaign, please visit: www.SafeBoatingCampaign.com.
Have a fun and safe boating season and remember to WEAR IT! While you're out on the water this holiday weekend, keep Summerset Boat Lifts in mind for all your Lake of the Ozarks boat lift service needs. Give us a call at 573-348-5073 and be suprised at how soon you'll see a representative of Summerset Boat Lifts on your dock. We want to earn your trust and your business!
1165 Jeffries Road Osage Beach, MO 65065
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