USCG Changes Life Jacket Laws

By Patrick Farrell November 15, 2012

Boat Safety

As a boater, it is important that you understand and adhere to all United States Coast Guard (USCG) safety laws. Provided below is a quick refresher on the USCG’s laws regarding life jackets. All recreational vessels must carry one wearable life jacket for each person on board. Any boat 16 feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable (Type IV) device. Life jackets should be worn at all times when the vessel is underway.

Always check and read the manufacturer’s information booklet and label provided with all life jackets. They will provide valuable information, including size, type , intended use, and USCG approval information.

Life jackets must be:

• USCG approved (check the label)

• In good and serviceable condition

• Appropriate size and type for the intended user

• Properly stowed

With the growing popularity of paddleboarding, the USCG has adjusted the life jacket laws accordingly. The USCG has officially classified stand up paddleboards (SUP) as a vessel. The newly classified vessels must comply with federal Navigation Rules and “carriage” requirements when operated beyond the limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area. Adult stand-up paddlers are required to have a USCG approved life jacket for each person, a sound signaling device (whistle), visual distress signal and navigation light (flashlight).

Most cities and harbors are now enforcing the new life jacket law. Children 12 years old and under are required to wear a USCG approved life jacket. However all operators over 12 years of age are only required to have an adult USCG approved life jacket either attached to the vessel or on the operator.


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