Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Tuesday that immediately requires any child under the age of 13 to wear a personal flotation device while aboard a vessel that is under way.
The law will also require children under the age of 16 to possess a certificate of boating safety education before they can operate a vessel unless they are supervised by an adult or someone 16 or older who has a boating safety certificate, effective Oct. 1.
"As a state, nothing we do is more important than protecting the lives of our children," O'Malley said in a statement. "By raising the age at which a child is required to wear a life vest and improving boating safety education, this legislation will do just that."
Formerly, any child under the age of 7 had to wear a PFD on a recreational boat 21 feet or smaller, unless the boat is moored or anchored or the child is below deck in an enclosed cabin.
The state averages 12 boating related fatalities a year. In 2009, Maryland had 17 boating related fatalities;16 of the victims were not wearing PFDs.
Raising the age requirement puts Maryland in line with federal regulations and 34 states, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.