Chapter 2: Boating Safety

PFDs and Child Safety

Children and infants require special consideration when it comes to flotation devices and their safety. Children need to wear a personal flotation device at all times whenever they are around water. Ideally, they should be introduced to wearing one, while floating in shallow water, so that they are more comfortable and less panicked if a hazardous situation actually arises. It is important that the device is worn correctly so that it can properly turn them face up, when necessary.

It is mandatory for all passengers on a vessel to wear a flotation device which fits them, it is especially important for infants as they have a higher risk of slipping out of the device. Always test the fit of the device in safe shallow water before taking it out on a vessel.

Federal Law requires that all children, under the age of 13, wear a life jacket if they are above deck on a moving vessel. In addition to this federal rule, certain states may have more stringent and specific rules. So, it is always best to look up the child PFD requirements of a state. Also, as with any flotation device, check the label. It will indicate the weight range of the device.

For children and infants under 50 pounds, special life jackets with a crotch strap and a collar for head support must be used to ensure their safety. Another good way to check a child's flotation device is to pick them up by the shoulders of the PFD and ensure that it does not slip above their chin but remains firmly in place.

PFDs and Child Safety

Exercise an excess of caution where the safety of children and infants are a concern. If a child is not a swimmer, they should wear a Type I or II child vest. The higher buoyancy and ability to flip them face up is invaluable. If the child is inexperienced in the water, or not use to wearing a PFD, acclimate them to the experience by having them float in shallow water, first, until they are comfortable.

Always choose the right PFD, for the situation, and refer to the label to verify that it is the right size for the child's weight.