Choosing the Right Life Jacket

As boaters, we like to focus on the “fun” aspects of boating – the thrill of speeding over the water, having a beautiful cove to yourself, or a great day spent waterskiing or tubing. When it comes to something that’s not fun – like lifejackets – we often give it little thought, instead just grabbing something that meets basic requirements and then stowing it away.235 SS_Lifestyle-59

But a good PFD (personal floatation device) might be your most important piece of boating equipment. Statistics have shown that more than 80 percent of boaters who drown are not wearing life jackets. Half of those accidents happened when the water was calm. And most of those drowning victims could swim. So many fatal boating accidents are entirely preventable if people do one simple thing: wear a life jacket.

If you’ve avoided wearing a PFD because you thought it was too hot and uncomfortable, or it would mess up your tan lines, new PFD designs and technology have made life jackets so comfortable and even stylish that there’s no excuse not to wear one. Many PFDs feel like you’re not wearing one at all. They are lightweight, allow a full range of motion, and many are even inflatable.

For your PFD to work properly, it has to be the right match for you. Here are a few tips for picking out and wearing a life jacket:

  • Make sure your life jacket is Coast Guard-approved.
  • Check the manufacturer’s label to make sure the jacket is a proper fit for you.
  • Check that the jacket is appropriate for your activity.
  • Make sure your jacket is properly fastened and that it doesn’t ride up over your chin or face.
  • Make sure children are wearing properly-fitted, child-sized life jackets.