Group seeks stiffer Coast Guard regulations on life jackets

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The National Boating Safety Advisory Council recently approved a resolution for life jacket wear, asking the Coast Guard to pursue requirements for life jacket wear for recreational boaters in certain circumstances, the Marine Retailers Association of America reported.

The resolution asks the Coast Guard to consider requiring life jackets for boaters on personal watercraft; human-powered vessels, such as canoes or kayaks; any vessel less than 18 feet in length; and any person being towed while engaging in water sports.

The resolution further charges the Coast Guard to work with its partners to design a strategy to engage the boating public through in-person and electronic dialogue on this topic.

The federal government has been pushing for mandatory adult life jacket wear for several years, according to the MRAA. The action of the boating safety council followed a test project by the Army Corps of Engineers on three lakes in Mississippi, Ohio, and California and a recent announcement that the National Park Service was going to initiate a test case of mandatory adult life jacket wear on Lake Mead.

MRAA recently issued a position paper opposing mandatory adult life jacket wear that was distributed to all members and is posted on its website.

Contact or with any comments on the issue.


18 comments on “Group seeks stiffer Coast Guard regulations on life jackets

  1. Dave Rueckert

    The key word here is “freedom”. Where does the Nanny State end? Do I really need the Army Corps or Feds to tell me when I should wear a life jacket? I think not.
    We have laws that require life jackets for each passenger to be on board. We are required by law to have a flare gun, extinguisher, horn or whistle, registration, boater’s license for kids, lights and adhere to load limits.
    Why don’t we have a law that requires my Coke to be in a certified cup holder so it doesn’t spill? Someone could slip and fall on a loose Coke can you know.
    Maybe, just maybe maybe, this is revenue driven. Pretty some they will be able to write a ticket for every boat they stop for something or another. They need that revenue you know. How else can pay for all those fancy boats. (we have SIX governemnt agnecies that ticket on my river)
    Maybe the Coast Guard should focus on guarding the coast.


    This is insane. I can understand mandatory education but not madatory behavior. Have we forgotten that this is not an OSHA item, it is recreation. Let us not forget that there is a customer in all this, and that the government works for the customer.

  3. oldboatguy

    Another example of the federal government getting involved where THEY SHOULD NOT.   Trying to establish boating laws for everywhere from Hateras to Florida to Lake Mead to Hawaii to Wisconsin is ludricous; leave this up to the state’s DNR, just like hunting and fishing regulations. That is awkward (and restrictive) enough for boaters and the recreating public!
    I’m sick of big government sticking their impersonal noses in our personal lives; either they’re trying to develop another way to tax us, or they’re getting a kickback from some industry (ie., lifejackets, insurance companies?) that’s working through lobbyists, not on our behalf. 

  4. captain tom

    I don’t much care for being required to wear life jackets either, but I do recall hearing from my father about a reaction like this when “big government” started requiring drivers’ licenses and, later, seat belts and drunk driving laws.  Seems like whether or not regulations are a good idea is often a matter of opinion.

  5. Dan Miller

    I can’t see my family putting on  a life vest, for a cruise over to our local restaurant on a 90 degree day.   We are in no danger, if the water in our local lake is calm, and the skies are clear.     We would just stay home and cook out.  The restauarnt loses revenue, the gas dock loses revenue, the state loses taxes, and our enthusiasm for boating suffers.  If they are wanting to eliminate recreation boating, then they are on the right path.
    Big Brother should stay out of recreational boating, because there is no one size fits all for every boating situation.   I don’t know this for a fact, but I would guess that the majority of the people proposing these laws are not active boaters.  They certainly are not representing the votes of the people that they are there to represent.   Education about potentially dangerous boating situations is a much better path to acheive their goals.
    Manufacturer’s, dealers, and boat owners need to get activated on this issue or it will be mandatory legislation nationwide before we can all say “uncomfortable”
    Just like taxes, once the legislation is in place, it has a tendency to creep further into our lives.    If you see this happening at a local level in your area, band together to make a big fuss about it…….or it will be reality before we all know it.

  6. Jerry Schafer

    Mandatory life jackets for young children are one thing.  This will affect me, as I have a 14′ bay boat, I am an adult, I can think for myself.  I wear my jacket in ruff water and when out during early spring, winter and fall to protect myself from hypothermia if I should fall in the water.  On warm summer days when the water temperature is high, do I really need a jacket on, especially when many times we anchor and go into the water anyway?  Tell big brother to stop trying to legislate death.

  7. Rusty

    Does everyone boarding an airplane wear a parachute? If that study conducted by the Army Corps was done with as much forethought and regard to long-term affects as some of their other projects we can safely assume it has little validity.
    Please stay away from my boat. It is one of the last places I can excersize some modicum of freedom.

  8. U.S. Coast Guard Chief

    The majority of boating fatalities happen because the victim was not wearing a lifejacket and drowned. That’s a simple fact. If you don’t believe me, check out the boating safety statistics – Refusing to wear a lifejacket is like refusing to wear a seatbelt in a car. You don’t know when and how danger will strike in a marine environment. This threat is compounded in smaller vessels that are more susceptible to dangerous conditions.
    One responder said that he and his family are in no danger when he takes his family for a short ride on his vessel. I wonder if he says the same thing when he takes his family for a ride in his car. Probably not, I’m sure everyone is buckled up and safe and sound. The people that help form and write these laws spend their lives on boats. They consist of Coast Guard, state, and local law enforcement and EMS, and we see people die every year because they weren’t wear a lifejacket or were under educated. Boating safety laws are not meant to spoil a good time or make revenue. It’s not big government trying to bring down the little guy. It’s because we’re getting sick of pulling dead bodies out of the water. I’ll especially be happy if I never have to pull another child’s body out of the water because a parents said, “I didn’t think we were in danger.”
    You are in danger the moment you leave the pier. If you don’t believe that, you’re naive, and you or someone on your vessel will more than likely be in next year’s boating statistics. Wear your lifejacket at all times when you’re on the water. You never know what could happen out there. Believe me, the worst boating accidents I’ve seen occurred when the seas were calm and the skies were clear and not one dead person I’ve pulled from the water was wearing a lifejacket.

  9. bpante

    They have been trying to do this for years.  They have been beaten back before.  With all the Coast Guard has to do already they are always bureaucracy building.  A life Jacket is personal choice I don’t want to wear one all the time.  I don’t even agree with making children wear them (more later), that is a parental decision.  This will push more people out of boating and on to their couch
    On my boat with my children, and later grandchildren; learn to swim you don’t have to wear it.  My youngest son we took a coarse, he swam before he could walk.  In the US Navy every ship he was on they made him a rescue swimmer.  My one granddaughter got caught in the middle.  learned to swim at 3 years old.  Years later when I told her she had to wear one.  She said “You lied to me, you said if I learned to swim I didn’t have to wear it.”  As a teenager she worked as a lifeguard. 
     This government can’t even balance a budget and they are going to tell me how to dress on my own boat.
     USCG Retired.

  10. Platt Johnson

    I am a windsurfer, kiteboarder, Stand Up Paddle Boarder and surfer. The Coast Guard got into and then out of the life jacket business on windsurfers about 25 years ago. Now they want back in.
    Life Jackets are detrimental to safety at times (difficulty swimming back to your board, getting trapped under a sail, not being able to dive under waves etc..) but at other times they are an aide to safety. There is no one size fits all rule that a government can impose on this issue.
    Let the people who “choose” to go on the water “choose” whether or not to wear a life jacket. It’s their life and it’s a matter of personal freedom. Otherwise outlaw motorcycles – they don’t have seatbealts and often don’t require helmets (crazy if you ask me) but that’s up to them. This is the USA not Europe.

  11. Coastie

    By the looks of these posts…I’ll be fishing more children and their parents from the sea.

  12. Huh

    I’ve seen studies that say a boater is 6x more likely to die that a motor vehicle occupant.  We have laws in 49 out of 50 states requiring seat belt use.  Seems like this is a no-brainer to me.
    Plus when you look at who is affected:  PWC, canoe/kayakers, people being towed (all groups of which almost all wear life jackets anyway), and boats under 18′, this seems to be very, very reasonable.  It affects the groups most likely to die.
    Besides, don’t nearly all states already require life jackets for PWCs and people being towed? 

  13. Roxanne

    US Coast Guard Chief’s comments got it RIGHT ON. So did NBSAC, a Council of concerned and experienced boating industry, safety and education professionals.
    This is not a new issue it’s true. The facts about how boating drownings happen show clearly that a lot of folks think they are not at risk and don’t want to wear a lifejacket. Unfortunately, even good swimmers, experienced boaters and fair weather sailors can drown by falling out of, or capsizing a small boat. Cold water shock and the gasp reflex are deadly, silent and quick.
    This regulation is NOT a power grab by Coast Guard or the Army Corps or the water safety and lifesaving professionals of the world. It is a necessary effort to be absolutely clear  about risk and informing the public about what the STANDARD of CARE should be in their own boat and what an operator’s responsibility is to passengers.
    Get rid of the old musty, busty keyhole devices that no one wants to wear. Great strides have been made in modern, comfortable and cool lifejacket designs. with more to come to a  marine retailer near you. Visit a store, check them out and choose the right one for your activity. But most of all, GET IT ON!
    Your rescue and recovery personnel will thank you. So will your family.

  14. john ennis

    People who go on the water with me either wesr a PFD or they don’t go. No If’s and’s or but;s..wear it or stay ahore.It is plain common sense which alot of boaters do noit have. All you need to be a boater is a down payment. Brains not required. You see evidience of this every weekend.

  15. Grumpy Old Yacht Designer

    I think this type of legislation is the wrong approach, although I’m in favor of PFD use in most circumstances when under way or fishing.

    It seem to me that instead, boaters should be required to carry a mandatory life insurance policy covering all on board, with proceeds payable to the Coast Guard to cover rescue costs. Of course insurance companies will charge a higher rate for those who don’t wear PFDs.

    In the land of “freedom” the citizens should have the right to risk their lives as they see fit. But then why expect the government to rescue your foolish ass when you get in trouble?

  16. Rod

    Here we go again!
    Trying to pass laws that are duplicates of laws already on the books!
    Last time I checked, it is already required that people on PWCs in ALL 50 States MUST wear a proper USCG-Approved life jacket. I also am pretty sure that it is required that anyone on waterskies / wakeboards / tube / etc. has to wear a life jacket (at least in most States?)I know there must be a life jacket in the boat for the skier. Actually, my observation is that PWC Operators and riders are already wearing life jackets in 99% or more cases! How has the PWC industry /dealer network accomplished this? Can we apply the same ideas to other boats??

  17. Nate

    We don’t need the government – because that’s who the Coast Guard is – to be our mother! I’m not against life jackets, but I am adamantly against giving up our liberties so that big brother can have more control over us.

    What’s next?! Mandatory parachutes for all commercial airline commuters? Mandatory goggles so that there’s no chance of getting anything in your eye?! How about soggy corn chips, so that nobody has a chance of choking on a hard chip?!

    Accidents happen. That’s life!

    How far do “we the people” allow our out-of-control government to regulate our lives before we have no life left?!

    More accurately, how far do we allow the insurance company lobbyists to push for more government regulations, so that they can continually reduce the possibility of having to pay out claims?! THAT is what’s REALLY going on here!

    Wearing a life jacket should be left to the rights of the individual. Period.

    We the people need to tell those insurance companies to go pound sand!

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