Summer is the time when many of us like to go boating. But remember, every time you are out on the water, make sure you “Wear It!” Wear your life jacket, that is. Always wearing your life jacket was the focus of this year’s Safe Boating Week (May 16-22, 2015) and also the focus of the yearlong North American Safe Boating Campaign. The campaign is co-sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council and the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division.

The Wear It! campaign aims to educate people about the necessity of life jackets and the different varieties of life jackets, in an effort to reduce drowning fatalities.

In 2014, drowning was the reported cause of death in 78 percent of all boating fatalities, according to U.S. Coast Guard ‘s statistics. Of those drowning deaths, 84 percent did not have a life jacket on. Obviously, we could greatly reduce drownings if people would simply wear their life jackets, and wear the right kind of life jacket for them, while boating.

What Kind of Life Jacket Do I Wear?

Choosing the right life jacket for you and all your boat’s passengers can be a little intimidating. We’ll take this step by step.

The two basic kinds of life jackets are: (1) inherently buoyant and (2) inflatable.

  • Inherently buoyant life jackets use materials such as foam that keep you afloat naturally. They are good for swimmers and non-swimmers alike, infants through adults, and come in Type I, Type II, and Type III. (More on the types below.)
  • Inflatable life jackets either automatically inflate when immersed in water or must be manually inflated, usually by pulling a cord. Inflatable life jackets are not USCG-approved for children under the age of 16, for personal watercraft, towed water sports, for whitewater boating, or for commercial use. They should also not be used by weak swimmers or non-swimmers.

You also need to consider the various types of life jackets and their purposes:

  • Type I is an inherently buoyant offshore life jacket. It will usually turn an unconscious person face up. If you travel over rough, open water, everyone should wear this type.
  • Type II is a near-shore inherently buoyant vest. Many, but not all, of this type will turn an unconscious person face up. It is used for calm inland water.
  • Type III is a flotation aid. It will not turn you face up if you are unconscious. The many varieties of floatation aids are usually considered the most comfortable to wear, but should be used only in situations where you would expect a quick rescue.
  • Type V is a special-use device that can also be manually inflated for additional flotation.
  • Type III and V inflatable life jackets will turn most wearers face up more quickly than the other personal flotation devices, but have the limitations mentioned above. They are highly visible when inflated.

The Coast Guard requires that all vessels 16 feet or longer carry a throwable life jacket (Type IV).

Finally, a life jacket’s fit is critical. One that is too large may dangerously push up around your face; one that is too small may not keep you afloat. All life jackets should be U.S. Coast Guard-approved.

Some Additional Safety Tips

The Coast Guard has these additional reminders for all boaters:

  • Take a boating safety course.
  • Get a free vessel safety check.
  • Avoid alcohol or any other substance that would impair you while operating a boat.

And of course, always wear your life jacket every time you go out in a boat!

Do You Need Help with a Boating Accident?

If you or a loved one was injured or killed due to a boating accident, you could be eligible for compensation to cover your injuries. Depending on liability and negligence factors, you could recover money associated with the treatment of your injuries, lost wages, wrongful death, or future medical care.

If you’re interested in filing an accident claim, contact the law offices of Steven H. Heisler today or call him at (410) 625-4878. Steven H. Heisler has dedicated his legal practice to the representation of personal injury victims, including those hurt or killed in boating accidents. Contact him today for more information on whether your boating claim will hold water.