How Life Jackets Work

- Apr 14, 2018-

The U.S. Coast Guard has several federal requirements regarding flotation device use. Recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD for each person aboard the boat. One throwable PFD, such as a ring or a cushion, must be present on any boat 16 feet and longer, although canoes and kayaks are exempt from this rule. These devices should be readily accessible, meaning they're not in the bottom of a trunk or tied to the side of a boat.

In addition to these federal regulations, many states have laws regulating the use of life jackets, particularly for children and for activities such as water skiing. However, there is no law that a person has to wear a life jacket. In 2005, the Coast Guard found that only about 23 percent of recreational boaters were wearing personal flotation devices.