Many in Colorado are familiar with the tragic story of the missing toddler being towed in Carter Lake this past July. He is now presumed drowned, and authorities report that his life jacket was too big for his 25-pound body.
Boating accidents are not so few and far between. The Coast Guard says that each year about 8,000 boating accidents are reported, resulting in the death of more than 800 people.
The Coast Guard and consumer safety groups want people to become more comfortable with wearing PFDs. To help promote the use of life jackets while boating, the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in cooperation with the Coast Guard, are promoting a boating safety campaign for the fourth year in a row.
The NSBC reports there are more than 12 million recreational boats in the United States. That organization wants boaters to know that wearing a life jacket is the best way to prevent boating fatalities, because most boating fatalities are drownings.
According to the Coast Guard, between 1995 and 2001, 210 children under the age of 13 died while boating; 121 of these deaths were from drowning. Now the Coast Guard has a new rule requiring that all children under age 13 wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets while aboard recreational vessels that are underway, except when the children are below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
The Coast Guard’s rule affects those states that do not have children’s life jacket requirements established by statute or rule. For the remaining states, the rule recognizes and adopts the existing state regulation, even if it is less stringent than the Coast Guard rule. Penalties for a boat operator who fails to have all children under the age of 13 wear a life jacket are similar to those for failing to have life jackets on board. Penalties may be assessed up to a maximum of $1,100 for each violation.
Just make sure to get a good fit. For children, have them try on PFDs in the store. Lift the shoulders of the PFD to make sure it doesn’t lift up over their chins or ears. If there are more than three inches between your child’s shoulders and the life jacket, try a smaller size. Don’t forget to have your child test the PFD in shallow water so that you can adjust the straps for the best fit.